Friends, fellow filmmakers and big fat fakers

paparazzi 1Photo by Christopher Labadie Photography

There is something really sensational about the human spirit – how we live in a constant state of renewal and restoration. Think about all the times you have been screwed over, hurt, betrayed, taken advantage of, lied to, left behind, heartbroken, cheated … by friends, colleagues, family members, trusted elders …  but have you stopped trying? Have you stopped your heart from loving or from exploring the possibilities of what other love exists? I don’t know a single person that could answer yes to these questions in truthfulness.

We are chemically wired to seek out connection and fellowship with other souls. Our body physically responds to touch and emotional encounters in ways that science nor logic can deny that we are literally constructed to share our lives with one another in unity. This is where the pitfall of organized religion comes in and acts as a trap to mankind. Any person, power or organization that teaches you that you are somehow incomplete or lacking if you do not depend on them is an inhibitor and damaging to your soul. Because we are constantly in this state of seeking, so many people falsely claim to have or be what it is that you seek and out of desperation or hope, you grasp onto it, wanting to believe you have finally found your home, your church, your life partner, you dream job, or whatever it may be.

The issues is in the source – if that thing or person is lost, destroyed, does not live up to expectation (which is the most common reason for depression clinically is unmet expectations) … then what becomes of you? You who have aligned yourself to this force to be fed some sort of spiritual, mental or emotional nourishment to sustain your own life-source? You die and wither like a flower starved of water.

If you’re like most of us, you barricade yourself in a room for a bit, pig out on Ben & Jerry’s, a few bottles of wine or maybe some vodka depending on how serious, cry, rip some shit up, throw away anything that causes recollection of said person, place or thing and then emerge from your cave claiming to feel like a new person; rejuvenated, reignited and ready to go.

You’re not new though, you are a collective of everything you have ever experienced and everyone you choose to encounter and allow into your life path. It is how you let these pieces shape or impact who you are. I’ve never believed in forgetting or not acknowledging your past because of this reason – your past is your foundation, the building blocks of the pillar that is you. Given everything that gets thrown at you in life, the fact that your pillar is still standing (it may have a few gouges or scratches here and there and some missing paint or cracks) but the simple fact that it is indeed still standing, is quite phenomenal.

I love very deeply. I love my parents very deeply. I love my God very deeply. I love my acting very deeply. I love a man very deeply. I have to be extremely careful of those whom I trust and whom I allow into my life on a deep level because when I love you, you have so much power to effect my world. That’s just not a risk I’m willing to take lightly anymore the older I get.

I’ve had a few circumstances that arose in my life over the last year or so ( health scares, love woes, etc.) where I get in my car and I drive around and say “I have no one. Everyone I know is a business contact; an acquaintance.” It’s a very hallowing realization to understand that if I want to call someone at 3a.m. to talk about the audition at Good Faith or that film set we were both on two weeks, ago I’d have my of the litter, but if I need to talk to someone about how I may have a hole in my heart and that’s what’s been causing my migraines this whole time, then who the heck can I call?

I made a devout promise that I would begin working on developing healthy, viable relationships. I am blessed to say that I have a few ladies in my life that I’ve known since Kindergarten, one even from preschool. I don’t come to her nearly as often as I should, but every time I do I feel welcomed home (usually with wine) and warm and comfortable – like putting on a cozy sweater. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed or what guilt my conscious has racked up with sins, I know I can be myself with her.

My best friend lives in Texas. She was one of those people that you meet and your energies just collided and mesh. We connected immediately and although I’ve never had a sister of my own, I would say that I love her as my own flesh and blood and would protect her at any cost. We have this unspoken anger with one another because both of us are entirely too stubborn for our own good and don’t like initiating or asking for help or love so we constantly await the other one to make a move – it’s a lot like a long distance chess match done through the mail actually. I wish every day she would move back and that I could have her near to laugh with. The relationship, the distance, the life circumstance may change, but the love never does.

God has also brought other people into my life in the most unexpected ways. I stayed with Mary Lynn Kelly when I first moved out of my home when separating from my ex husband. Mary Lynn is a glowing spirit, always looking for expressive ways to create and enhance the world of those around her and took me in graciously under her maternal wing. Wendy Killeen is probably the most selfless single mother of 2 that I know as well as an unsung hero. She gives so much and asks nothing in return. Wendy is the kind of person who inspires me. I read in my book series which I often make reference to, that whenever you meet someone new, the question you should ask  yourself is “How can I be a gift unto this person?” Most people operate on the opposite basis, asking “What can I get out of this other person? How does this benefit me to befriend or spend time socializing with this individual?” Wrong. So wrong.

That’s where my fellow-kind comes in. I have over 2,000 “friends” on Facebook. I talk to dozens of different people on any given day whether it be on a film set, IM, at an audition, mixer, screening, rehearsal, work or what have you. I constantly have people coming and going from my life. I made a mistake very early on when first starting out in this career path, believing that all of these new people I was meeting were  now my new friends. I am a very open person and a very trusting person  so I shared bits and pieces of myself with these people. Bits and pieces that these people doused in gasoline, shoved into a cannon and then proceeded to fire at will as ammo at me when it benefited them to do so.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up to someone honestly, thinking that I was in a safe place to do so when I hear the next day that this same person turned around and said I was a diva or a bitch and used my words (which they originally agreed with) to turn a director or manipulate some other like party against me. Ouch. Seriously, don’t do that! Let me cry, let me be a loner a set, think I’m a bitch, fine – but don’t fake -friend me. That’s just mean. I recently got the advice never to trust another female in LA. Don’t let another female ever take you to an audition, pick you up from an audition, look at a script or side you are working on, or know anything about who you’re dating or your personal life. I don’t think that rule only applies to the ladies la la land … just sayin …

Granted I still believe in my gut that most people are genuinely good and are also looking for a deeper connection. I think that most believe because you may share a mutual interest in film and acting that those seeds should be enough to bloom into a beautiful, fruitful tree if watered and cared for. Ideally, this should be so and fresh , full gardens of shared passion should be cultivated, but that requires both parties to operate on the same level.

I do think that there are some people though, that are nothing but big fat fakers. If all you want from me is for me to work in your film for free, or for me to write up a press release for you or perform some other business-related task, here’s a novel idea – JUST ASK ME. You don’t have to go through this entire bs process of befriending me. It’s a waste of your time and mine, we are both adults and understand the nature of our industry and how cross-promotion works, so why not be forthcoming about it?

I’ve seen it all before, where people fake an interest in who you are because they feel if they don’t, you won’t grant them certain favors that they are in need of. I know the process and I’ve seen it all. There are guides available even, on how to do this  like a skill set – when you meet someone don’t start off by directly asking for a need or a favor or a contact or referral, instead introduce yourself, compliment the other person, let them know qualities you admire about them and if anything, ask them how you can be more like them. These individuals will feel so appreciated that eventually they will volunteer information and services without you even having to ask. That’s the beauty of the system. Even with people I know, they write to me and start with a compliment or some sort of formality so I scan to get to to the part where they are asking me for what it is they actually need. So silly.

I’m feeling bitter at this precise moment because a new business connection decided to drop me like a fly after it escaped my mind that we were scheduled to hang out. He sent a cold text saying “Best to you in your endeavors.” Wow, alright dude, if you choose to operate in those closed off terms and with a policy of unforgiveness and lacking of understanding, then perhaps I’m not interested in fostering a relationship, professional or personal, with you anyway. Dan Dice once said, and I think it is true, your friends will be your friends no matter what. Those true beacons of light will guide you home no matter how much you have messed up, how far off the path you strayed, how lost you got in the wilderness; they will just always be there. That is a friend.

You see, something interesting happened to me while at the Jerome Indie Film and Music festival which taught me an invaluable lesson and exposed a dark, dirty area of myself to … well, myself. I had a very close encounter with my ego and I didn’t like it. I’m ashamed to admit to this, but I feel most may have experienced similar things. I’m dating an actor, a very multi-talented, dynamic, handsome actor who happened to have multiple features screening in Jerome. I prepared myself in advance that this would be his event and I would be support to him, his date and company. I didn’t realize how deeply it would impact my confidence and sense of worth. I felt like a nobody, after all, in this industry you are only as good as your last film. I’d see everyone going around talking about their work, proud of their shorts and their roles, smiling and beaming but I just couldn’t shake my feeling of uselessness. I suddenly desired the invisibility cloak from Harry Potter, more than anything several times throughout that weekend. In fact for the very first time in years, when people started asking me what I do while I was out there I denied the fact that I was even an actor.. I kept saying that I was a writer. I felt to lowly, too non-existent to own the title of actor. I remember feeling that same way when I first started out 2 years ago or so, and I remember my mentor pulling me aside and saying “Melissa, no one will believe you’re an actor until you do.” Since then whenever someone asked me “Oh what do you do?,” I would reply with forced confidence and a smile “I am an actor” until I did start to believe and it felt comfortable on me. Fake it till you make it, right? Until now at least …

When we went back to the room for a wardrobe change in between events and my sweet man started to express his love for me and I didn’t feel worthy of it. Who was I? A nobody, and this fantastic creature in front of me is trying to give me his love. Why? I don’t deserve it. Suddenly flashes of this cycle rippled across the back of my mind and I realized with extreme clarity that this is what we do. We allow others to dictate how good we feel about ourselves. What a terrible, ugly thing. Because these others don’t know us, they don’t know our hearts or our true value, these others know our characters, know the roles we play, know the public personas we exude at events, know shadows of us and yet they are the ones that determine our good days and our bad days? I looked him in the eye and expressed what I just came to terms with and he agreed that this was something that we both were indeed guilty of and needed immediate action to rectify. It became so clear to me why professional actors keep their real, authentic lives locked behind closed doors – because it is precious to them. It became clear to me why the emphasized needing family and people in your life for a support system, because it does not matter how many fans or awards or Facebook likes you have – the world is a fickle and unfair force. If you place your life in their hands you can be God one day and the sacrifice for the upcoming God the next. But to give your heart to those that find you always worthy, no matter how long it has been since you were cast in a lead role or how big of a success of big of a flop your last film was, or how many people recognize you; that is where you will find the core of love and it is only from there can you receive it’s true blessing and healing powers. It is only there can you share your life with someone without fear of falling too deep.

The Lovelost – Ready to Hear You – Music Video by Running Wild Films   http://youtu.be/ddsow5cukks

Will the real critic please stand up? Oh wait that’s me!

big redPhoto by G Rockett Phillips

“You cannot discredit truth. Truth is truth, and it can neither be proven or disproven. It simply is. The wonder and beauty of my message cannot and will not be affected by what people think of you. Indeed, you are one of the best ambassadors, because you have lived your life in a way that you call less than perfect. People can relate to you – even as they judge you. And if they see that you are truly sincere, they can even forgive you your ‘sordid past.’ Yet I tell you this: So long as you are still worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them. Only when you require no approval from outside yourself can you own yourself” – An uncommon dialogue – Conversations with God Book Three by Neale Donald Walsch

This was God’s answer to Neale when he beseeched God to pass the torch to someone else to deliver the message of what God wanted to communicate through him in the form of the written word, because he felt too unworthy, too imperfect and that his history would taint how the message would be received. I related to this, in fact my gut flipped over and my innards cried out in glorious symphony that they knew this internalized self-torture all too well.

There is a song and a prayer I listen to and murmur regularly throughout the day “Break every chain.” Spoken words of others, condemnations, bad energy, darkness – all very really things that can create a virtual prison or holding tank for our souls. We cannot create when we answer to others, we are not free when we answer to others and we are not who we are fully intended to be when we answer to to others.

I kept seeing this quote float around the internet by Johnny Depp over the last several weeks:

“Just keep moving forward and don’t give a shit about what anybody thinks. Do what you have to do, for you.”

At first I thought “Shit yes!” and then I thought “Well how easy is it for HIM to say that? He’s Johnny freaking Depp?” It wasn’t always easy for him though. Like so many of us, he had to make the difficult journey to stardom, struggling with poverty, raising a family, taking risks that most would probably consider unwise or irrational considering his worldly responsibilities … but he did what he said, he kept moving forward and gave not a single shit about what anyone said or thought. Ok, perhaps he gave one shit, I mean the man is human after all,  but not a big enough one to let him stop moving.

Nearly everything I do in life, I do it with the expectations and possible judgements of others in mind. Should I post that picture, people might think it’s too sexy? Should I take that role, people might think less of me? When someone is mad at me or things are in turmoil, it may as well be the end of the world to me. Not being liked or wanted is probably one of the worst things to me – it consumes me. It does not matter if it’s my mother being disappointed in me for spending the night at a boy’s house even though I’m a 27-year-old woman or if it’s a complete stranger who just looked at me oddly for a passing second in an elevator. My moods, my self-worth are completely dependent and determined on outside circumstances and I suffer for this. There lingers a disturbance in the force that disrupts my workflow, my thought-pattern, my emotional responses and my focus.

Most people don’t perceive me this way. Why? Well because of the billion pictures I post of myself on FB and all the talking up I do of my own work, so clearly I must be a confident if not self-righteous diva? Rubbish. The only reason I started an Instagram account was to deal with looking at my own face. True story … when I joined pretty much everyone was posting pictures of their faces or food, not really a whole lot has changed, but I mean that was literally all you’d see. So I thought to myself one day that I would force myself to take a picture every day, post it and look at it. Sure enough it got easier and easier to accept seeing myself. Now I don’t cringe every time there’s not a photoshopped, professional photo of me flying about the highways of the inter webs. One small step toward victory of self-acceptance. But did anyone else perceive it that way? Probably not. Should it matter how they perceived or received it? No, it shouldn’t.

I fear that if people knew just how little self-confidence I had they would be shocked. I took a new age approach the other day and I said that every morning and every night I would stand in front of the mirror and stare into my own reflection and say the words “You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are deserving of love.” I got through that just fine but as soon as I attempted to switch the word ‘you’ to ‘I’, I couldn’t do it. The water works started and I wept as I forced myself to say those words, lips quivering, chin all crumpled up like a tossed love note wadded in an unwanted ball in the trash, eyebrows pinched together with tension … and as soon I did finally finish stumbling through the mantra (it felt like it took 10 minutes to say 11 words) I let my head drop into my hands and I cried for the lie that I told. I just lied to myself. The only thing that brought me out of this Soap Opera drama moment was the fact that I immediately thought of the youngest son on “The Middle” who after he tells a lie he puts his head down in shame and says aloud in a whisper the lie. Ha … oh sweet comedic relief. Brilliant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTflLZcUea8

So many of my issues go back to the way that I was raised. There have been scientific studies done that our brain is trained to interpret love, the acceptance and receiving of it, as well as self-worth and self-image in our first through sixth year of life. We don’t even have to maintain the exact memory of what caused these associations, but your brain literally takes an imprint of the chemical reaction that was released when you originally processed the situation and it stores that away into a file so that every time you are faced with those feelings of love, acceptance, etc; the same chemicals and hormones are released. This creates a pattern, which determines our behaviors and views on love.

What is interesting is that it is often in our areas of weakness that we are able to bring the most strength and healing to others. Many people who suffer from extreme physical and medical conditions are some of the most powerful prayers and healers of illness that I have ever witnessed. The women in my spiritual healing class are an ideal example of this. Karen, our fearless leader, suffers from chronic pain, has had several bouts with cancer, almost died from believe it or not allergies, and the list goes on, but she has had one of the most incredible ministries working with terminally ill cancer and HIV/AIDS patients and has seen countless miraculous healings. Dr. Souki, a former prostitute, drug-addict, alcoholic, criminal; travels the world-changing the lives and hearts of victims of sexual abuse, victims that may have died without her testimony or known worse fates, but I just learned that she herself still deals with depression, health complications and suicidal tendencies.

So why are they chosen to give such messages of strength to the masses? Because they are open. Because they have love and compassion despite what they were exposed to. Because they are and represent the masses. They are no better, no more perfect, they are just empty vessels asking God to replace all of the damaged, broken places with his love so that they may share that love with others.

I worry, always that my past mistakes will come back to haunt me. That one day I’ll awaken to the mob of accusers at my front door and be thrown into a public interrogation of who do you think you are questions before an even more public execution. I worry one day someone will say how crooked my nose is or how short I am and how I have no right to model. I worry one day people will expose my history of adultery and use it against me to say I am not good person. I worry that people will figure out that I’m not really a good actor at all, just somebody totally in love with doing it …

Love – love makes things possible that otherwise wouldn’t be. I’ve been working on a feature lately and I will say this quite honestly. My worst work is when I go in my head and begin to question if I’m doing it right, if I’m remembering my techniques, if I’m acting as good as so-and-so, if people will like it, if I’m being too dramatic or theatrical. It is when I let go and follow my initial gut impulses and act from the heart, that it is pure. It is then that I trust my own work. It is very similar to getting in touch with your inner or lost child. Children have no per-conditions or hesitations about responding. If they are scared they scream, if they are tired they yawn, if they think something is silly they laugh, if they are afraid the cry … It is not until they are told by the world that these actions, these natural responses are not acceptable or appropriate so they learn masking techniques to cover those responses and behave as a mature, cultured adult should.  Such a shame. Acting is in most all cases, responding honestly, so how can we make that delivery if we are not honest with what we feel in that moment and our brain is bombarded with worries or concerns about how we will be perceived?

There have only been 1-2 roles where I felt I was able to be honest 99% of the time and I have to say,  when I heard negative criticisms or not the best of reviews, it did not affect or phase me in the slightest. I was sure of what I did and I understood the core of where it originated from. Mr. Critic doesn’t have to like it, I do. It’s me and it’s honest.

Critics, everyone is a critic. Here is the definition of critic:

Definition of CRITIC

1
a : one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique

b : one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances

2
: one given to harsh or captious judgment

Origin of CRITIC

Latin criticus, from Greek kritikos, from kritikos able to discern or judge, from krinein

First Known Use: 1588

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow actor last week about how nobody prepares you for receiving comments regarding your work, good or bad, it can be an awkward or uncomfortable thing.

When people praise you, you always wonder if they are just saying that because they don’t want to offend you or hurt your feelings or maybe they weren’t even really paying attention. Or even if they do come to you with sincerity, how excited should you be about it? If you go too far you could be labeled full of yourself or proud or cocky, but if you are too modest you can be labeled insecure or unsure of yourself.

When people do come to you, or you hear of negative comments said behind your back or perhaps it is public review, again, how do you respond? How much stock do you take in their criticisms? Usually there are constructive bits and pieces that you can take away and use to better yourself, but there have been reviews that have totally wrecked actors’ careers. A lot of sensitive souls can’t stand all of the backstabbing that takes place because they take everything for face value – clearly if they said it, they meant it. We often don’t take time to consider their possible perspectives or angles coming from jealousy, envy, pettiness, competitiveness or any other such lowly places. How easily and freely too we allow people to act as critics and assign value that they do not possess to our attributes.

It doesn’t get easier, at least not for me. I cringe and get butterflies, no that’s too pretty of a term, I get downright sick to my stomach when reading reviews of my films or when I invite people to come see my work but I have tried to get into the habit of keeping several key pieces in mind.

1.) You cannot please everyone. I used to think that if you are good, I mean really stinking good and phenomenal at what you do, no one can dispute the fact that you’re good. Sort of like the quote about the truth from above. Not true when it comes to acting. I for example can very much respect Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio and acknowledge the fact that he is a talented actor, but I personally am not his biggest fan. There is something about his style that doesn’t quite appeal to me. Clearly that does not mean that he is a bad actor nor that I even think he’s a bad actor, just given the choice between him or Javier Bardem, I’d pick Bardem every time. His acting style appeals to me. This is my opinion which will clearly differ from yours or his or hers.

2.) You are you and no one else acts like you do. So often I’ve had someone come up to me and make comments like “You are a really good actor but I thought you were crazy emotional in that one scene.” or “Why didn’t you cry in that scene?” It used to really bother me because it felt like I did something wrong, but there was this day that I was working on accents with Michael Alvarez and listening to a practice CD and he gave me a really cool word. He said that when he first started practicing accents it used to really bug him because he didn’t sound like the guy on the CD no matter what he did, and then one day he realized he never would because that is just his voice. Nobody else has his voice and nobody else will sound like him. You take the technique and you make it your own. This same philosophy applies to full performances. Just because my friend Sarah would have broken down in full tears on a scene doesn’t mean that I would. I acted honestly for me and that is all I can do. Often times you look at the greats and it is those slices of them that are so uniquely them that shine through in their work and set them apart from all others. I’ve watched so many actors give safe performances and I find myself using the word “generic” to describe their choices or “average”. They weren’t bad, but there was nothing special about what they did. Don’t be afraid to let your you-ness come out in all of its glory. Be bold, be strong, be unapologetic with your work.

3.) Very rarely do people write bad reviews without being specific about what it is they don’t like. I read them a dozen times sometimes looking for things I can use to improve, but the truth is, you have to be honest with yourself about well … yourself. I am my own worst critic, even more precise and exact than the toughest of critics. Nobody knows me better or is closer to my work than me. I can watch a scene and in a matter of seconds pick out 10 things I could have done differently to make it stronger that most people wouldn’t give a second glance to, but it blasts out at me like a rocket catapulting into my brain. This used to torment me because I felt like I failed, but now I am just grateful for these opportunities and I am extremely open to watching my own work, because I can take those things and apply them to future work. For example on indie sets out here we often don’t have a person dedicated to continuity, so that is something I have become particularly aware of now because I’ll watch myself and notice my nails were long there and short there, or I had my hair one way in this shot and slightly different in another, or even my boobs will look bigger depending on what bra I wore under wardrobe that day … little nitpick things that can make subtle but firm difference in the character. Physical acting has never been a strength of mine so when I did a short recently I really dissected it and the choices I made of why it didn’t fully translate the way I had hoped. Most of them were really simple fixes, small movements, but I just wasn’t aware of them until I had to work through them

4.) Which brings me to this point – learn by doing. Never be afraid to take a role and never apologize for your work. Put in the time, the research, the training, the effort to be as good as you want the role to be. After you see the finished product, it is a very useful tool to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, what to prep better next time and so on, but as long as you gave it everything you knew to give, there’s no reason to feel ashamed of your work and you simply have more tools to show up with the next time around. Einstein as well as so many of the other great minds understood that you learn from failures. Even if you fail one hundred times, you just learned 100 ways how not to do something … but DO IT. Classes, training, coaching, that is all really crucial to growth and development, but there is nothing like being thrown into the trenches and fighting for your survival as an actor.

5.) Trust yourself. One thing Kevin Phipps told me once when I was nervous about delivering a desirable performance, is that he cast me because he trusts me completely. You already have the role, someone gave you that gift of trust, so honor it. They didn’t hire you to act like someone else or give a performance similar to another actor, they hired you to do what is that you do.

6.) Be gracious. Be awkward. Be whatever it is you feel, just be sincere. I hate it when people pretend like they are bashful when receiving compliments when you can tell they are just eating it up inside, but I LOVE it when you compliment someone and they are genuine in their response. I have a few friends that are not what I would say “business-oriented” so when you talk to them about their work it’s not all cookie-cutter bullshit – if they are surprised you like their work you see the light in their eyes start to glimmer and they start to bumble up their words out of excitement or if they truly felt like they did bad, they’ll say it “Wow thanks, I didn’t feel too confident about that one, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.” It’s refreshing. Think too about meeting celebrities, how much of a turn-off is it when they act like they know how awesome they are and are dismissive of your adoration? But then you talk to someone like Guillermo del Toro whose heart is probably as big as his tummy, and you are overwhelmed with appreciation for how much he appreciates you – little, nobody you, for no reason at all other than the fact that you took the time to tell him how much you love his work because he understands that if it weren’t for you loving his work, he wouldn’t have any work at all.

7.) Not everybody is a critic. They may think they are. They may act like they are, but they are not. Critics are meant to be a people of fair and equal judgement for a purpose of assigning worth and evaluating; not a furnace of a personality waiting to fire up the BBQ and pick your bones dry. There are such critic, yes, but they do not work toward improvement or the common good, so their assessment is simply not needed. Do not give people that power over you. Trust, listen, reflect and make changes based on only those whose opinions you value.

The more I put these blogs out here, the more I promote myself, the more work I do, the more critics I get. Just last week I found out that some folks apparently had some not very great things to tell a local, well-respected director and it has been parading around in my noggin every since. Who are these mystery murderers of my career? Why would they say those things? What did I do wrong or what did I do to them? Then I started thinking, how am I supposed to survive out in a big, competitive, cut-throat market like L.A. when I let someone in a local scene so easily pull on a thread and unravel my sweater?

I won’t. A shift and a change is needed. I need to stop putting others thoughts, opinions, words and feelings above my own. This goes against so much of what we are taught because it is seen as selfish, but if we always choose our highest self – the self that is in fact selfless, honest, kind, brave, and truthful, then in walking such a path, we will in turn be a positive force of light and love to those around us as well as ourselves because in our highest truth there is no desire to hurt another or ourselves, there is no desire to lie or deceive, there is no desire to cheat or to steal from another, there is no desire to degrade or devalue – it is not a commandment, it is just self-evident.

I want nothing more than to like myself, more than I want you to like me. Because if I can’t like myself, why would I believe for a moment that you would like me? It all starts from within. My acting is always about birthing a character from internalizing and evolving it from the inside out. If I put the same amount of effort of creating a film character into developing my own personal character, it would be an ultimate mastery of the self. No more using social media for validation, no more comparing myself to the beautiful people, no more ripping myself to shreds when a negative word is spoken or glare thrown in my direction, no more underestimating my own abilities or passions. Again, with love, with God, all things are possible. It’s like I have all of these holes in me from where I’ve let people penetrate my spirit with their cruelness, intentional or not, and instead of trying to cover them up with band aids or pretending they don’t exist at all, I want to fill them up with love of self. Let’s let go of our transgressions, let us release the negativity, let us loose ourselves from the bonds of the expectations of the world and let us take a walk on the water.

What is the difference between most actors and a street professional? We don’t usually get paid for acts of passions

Bot

The Angel – Bot Photo by Kevin R. Phipps

We do a really weird thing in our culture. There have been studies done and observations made by far more insightful and intelligent beings than myself that we as an American culture specifically, intentionally deprive ourselves of healthy pleasure or correspond them typically to sin or that which is forbidden and undeserving.

I use sex for examples quite a bit I’ve noticed, Aries are naturally sexual beings, but I also think it is applicable because at our carnal nature, we are created to be sexual beings. But look at how we handle our young when they start to discover their own bodies and feelings of pleasure. Most parents discourage their children from masturbation or verbally communicate messages to them that associate the behaviors with shame or something that is socially unacceptable. This is highly contradictory because these feelings of pleasure are completely natural and organically generated, but we are taught to stifle, suppress and not explore these sexual urges. This in turn often creates so many issues ranging from unhealthy fetishes, fear of sex, taboos, etc. There are so many alternative ways to handle the situation in showing our children to celebrate the wonderful gifts and joy our body provides us, while doing it in a safe and appropriate way.

This belief system is carried over into so many other realms of our practiced standards. For example, if you love something, you daren’t ask money in return for doing what it is that you love because that would be blasphemous. It would no longer be a labor of love, but a shallow attempt to make a buck off of something you should be willing to do freely and openly while asking nothing in return. Money itself is associated to evil or belonging to the ways of the world. We look at pastors who make profits and other wealthy individuals often as being selfish, shallow and self-consumed or at the very least, not following a genuine path.

I started to question why we automatically associate those negative classifications to folks with a big bank roll and a lot of it is quite simply, I feel, that most experience these feelings out of envy. But I dove in just a bit deeper…. Don’t I usually…

I have just as much freedom, just as much opportunity, just as much skill set and drive to make the same amount of money as any A-lister, athlete, politician or high-paid professional out there, so why am I blaming them or having bitterness toward them for accomplishing what I have not? Why does it feel like it is somehow their fault that I am lacking while they are just smothered in wealth?  Quite frankly, because the idea of making money doing what I love seems outlandish to me, if not nearly impossible. Acting is unpredictable, the jobs are sporadic, the payment is often low when first starting out and the odds are stacked against me for making this a full-time career unless I opt for the whole breast -implants and hope I run into the right person at a LA club on a late night kind of route.

If you believe that Neale Donald Walcsch actually did have a divine encounter with God or if you even just look at billionaires or millionaires who were self-made you will see that the same trend is evident – You have to make the choice to just do what you love and not worry about the money. As Nike says, “Just do it.” When you do what your love, follow the true purpose of your soul and trust that you are doing everything in your power to fulfill that purpose, the money will come. Often this requires you to take a great risk because you literally may be starting off with nothing and that feels so opposite from what we have been conditioned to do. I can’t help but think about computers that were originally built in someone’s garage and now are one of the top companies in the world that people can’t imagine living their lives with out or animation and newspapers that started as modest printing presses with one or two people busting their asses to do everything for 20 people to read it that are now international publications and household brands. What made them think they could do it?

Whenever you embark on anything we are taught to be prepared, be educated, be in a good financial situation – all good advice, but when you let those things, those material, conditional things become hindrances to you instead of enablers, that is when it is better to step out into the void and make something out of the nothing because like greats like Charlie Chaplin know, you might as well give all you’ve got because when you’ve got nothing, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I had a professor from Whales talk about various artistic revolutions and liberation movements take place across Europe during the avant garde period, and that was the one common thread. These brilliant, bold men and women had their rights, liberties, homes, money, everything stripped from them a lot of times so they had nothing left to do but create. This is our purpose after all, to create and remember who we really are. It is when we deny that of ourselves, that there is suffering.

Even in the Bible there is a famous story where one man asks God what he needs to do to get into heaven and God tells him to let go of all his worldly possessions and come follow him and it says the man was very sad and went away because he had a great many things. I don’t think this was meant to say that rich people are less deserving to get into heaven or less capable, but I do think it means that when you align yourself to the path of making money and not align yourself with the path of your heart or passion, you will always be chasing the next dollar sign instead of filling your soul’s bank with satisfaction.

I mean think about if you didn’t have a job or maybe even a car or a place to live for a time being. Think of how hard you would work to be the best actor you could be, yes because you need that roof over your head and a next meal, but also because it is your livlihood, it is your only way, your only source to getting both what fills your soul and your pockets. You’d spend every waking moment working on your craft, finding opportunities, developing your skill instead of standing behind a podium asking “How many in your party today?” It requires a lot of letting go.

As the film “Life of Pi” says, all life is a journey of letting go.

I was praying about that the other night along with a few other things in my life and I so strongly felt God say “Melissa, you are so afraid to let go because you don’t know what will happen in that void, what will exist in that distance and in that space away from what you hold in your controlled grasp, but don’t you understand that I am the space between? I am in the void.”

This sort of feeds into two opposing universal truths that work symbiotically together in our benefit.

1.) The universe takes care of you without you even having to try. Yes, I’ve read Voltaire’s Candid and know that their are some unfortunate souls out there that do no wrong and still can’t seem to catch a break and randomly get struck by lighting or some other horrible freak occurrence, but for the most part in my experience, I have found that it is in those times that I don’t try, that I surrender my will to the ways of the creator that he has this funny little plan devised to make it all work. I don’t feel and I don’t recognize it in the moment, sometimes it’s not until years later that I reflect back and think how funny it is the way life works out while other times the gratification is more instant. None the less, there seems to always be this underlying road map, unawares to me, that no matter how hard I try to tug my mental wheel this way or that, their is this spiritual compass keeping me right on course. During those times of nothingness and emptiness and despair, God is in that space, filling it with abundance yet for me discover.

2.) Where there is a will, there is a way. When I said surrender earlier I did not in any way mean give up. Surrender to the human language is such a weak term, but we are built to surrender our limited understanding and scope to the great visions and powers of the universe. By surrender, I simply mean that I allow myself to follow that little inner voice no matter how irrational, unpredictable or unreasonable the situation may seem. The whole world may be advising me to do something different or move in another direction, but every time I deny that little voice, I just get blown a little off coarse and it takes me more time to return to my divine path, but every time I honor that voice, something incredible usually happens. The more I pour myself into surrendering to that cause, the greater the reward. This takes a lot of discipline, a lot of self-realization and a lot of faith.

So how does one go from living a normal life to living one fulfilled?

I don’t know, I was hoping you would tell me… Ha! It just takes a little bit of conviction and making some choices.

In the local Arizona market it is almost unheard of for an actor to have a contract, but this is something I highly suggest especially if you are not represented and under the protection of an agent or a union. This is also is an effective way to avoid any unnecessary awkwardness when negotiating terms for future projects. When you are approached by someone to do a film I always ask to see a full copy of the script with willingness to sign a non-disclosure agreement of course, and if I am not familiar with the party or have not worked with them previously and I am still interested in working on the film after seeing the script I simply say, I have sent you my contract with my terms please let me know if you have any questions. Usually this includes a flat rate for payment, that a copy and/or footage must be provided and other basics.

If they are not able to fulfill those terms or request perhaps a lower rate to hire or something like that, that is totally fine, but at that point then it is my choice to accept it or not based on varying factors, but at least they are made aware immediately that I am a professional, that I expect them to treat me as, and that I expect that to act as professionals as well and follow-up accordingly. I think it is simple shifts in regular practices like these that can more quickly evolve the Arizona industry from a hobbyist state to a more professional environment. A least it would be perceived that way, and oh is there power in perception.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of some of the casting pages on Facebook for Arizona because it is irritating to me. Young filmmakers, first-time directors, people in a pinch, etc make a post on A SOCIAL WEBSITE looking for actors or crew and suddenly they’re publicly slammed with questions like “Is this paid?” or they get hit by nazi page monitors asking for specific details in order to just keep the post active. This may sound contradictory to moving toward making things run more like a business, but my personal belief is simple. Facebook is not a business nor is it a business page, nor is it a place to conduct business – it is a social platform to get the word out. This is not a paid casting service and those participating should not be expected or required to act as such when be handled by internal members of the community.

Good Faith Casting, for example just switched to a system where they are no longer sending out email notifications but asking their base to follow them on twitter or Facebook to continue to receive information. Why does this work – because they are a trusted, established source that deals directly with the clients, has full access to that information and already has the flow and rhythm of what is required to make the page run like a well-oiled machine. She has someone who runs the page for her, similar to running any other website, not some rando with a God-complex calling shots or laying down he law on fellow peers. Come on, handle the business in private through direct email correspondence with appropriate contacts. I realize that the general public might be wondering some of the same questions, but the truth is, the director may be willing to pay so and so a small amount of compensation to get him/her on board because their work is solid and may increase value of the performance but maybe he isn’t so willing to offer compensation to the other dozen people who respond to the post. Ever think of that?

We do have Durant.com, in addition to GFC as well other professional services where certain information and criteria are and should be required, but other than that, I say let there be freedom! Seriously, it all just looks silly.

The other component is that it is hard to break the cycle of working for free when you’ve done X number of projects without pay. In fact, I don’t know if I’m airing a dirty little secret or if this is a well-known fact already, but most production companies here locally have a list of people to contact because they know they will be able to hire them for free. This is not a good thing. To me that’s like saying why would I go pay for a good quality cup of coffee when I can sneak into the hotel lobby across the street and steal a cup for free? Definitely a sure-fire way to get your reputation burned. Don’t you know you are worth more than that! You are not only giving these people your time, but you are giving them your most prized-possession – your heart and your craft. Only you can do what YOU CAN DO. You are a rare and precious commodity, don’t let anyone sell you short on that. You would never not pay a heart surgeon or a plumber for providing one of their services, would you? Acting is yours, own it.

A lot of actors have a fear about not working regularly if they start refusing free work because let’s be candid, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot of paid film work out here. They also worry that they will not be perceived in a good or favorable light, but I have this point to express, using judgement call and devising a business plan to make your passion profitable is not ungrateful or rude, it is smart.

Use your discretion and be selective on which projects you are willing to do for free – will it enhance your demo reel, will it put you in contact with someone you have been wanting to work with, will it provide you with the chance to develop a character role that you had been wanting to sink your teeth into, will it provide you good exposure? If there is a benefit to it, then by all means do a free project here and there, but don’t make that your standard going rate. You know what they say, you get what you pay for.

That is one of the core issues about our local industry, there is no way to sustain a long term career here as an actor. Months can pass in between projects or auditions you are interested in taking and often times even when roles do become available so many people jump at the chance to do the work because they are desperate to get their fix, that often they allow themselves to work with people of questionable moral, ethical and professional standing and get taken advantage of because they are just so hungry for it. Once it ends, it ends and more months pass by until another opportunity presents itself and you are left with nothing to show for it, not a paycheck, not a completed film, not anything except usually a youtube link and if you’re lucky an IMDB credit which at some point you may debate removing from your profile because of it’s questionable nature, but for now, it’s an old notch on the belt. How’s it feel to sell yourself so cheap? I can answer that because I’m guilty of doing it countless times, it feels lousy.

I was talking to a local director who said that what became extremely obvious and evident to him when directing a set with both LA talent and local AZ talent on board – was that it wasn’t necessarily that the LA actors were more gifted or better than local actors, but they were immensely more easily direct-able. Why? Because they do it every day, they work every day or audition every day or take classes and train every day.

He suggested, oddly enough within the same week of meeting a background actor on the set of Grief that had the same idea, that instead of charging people obscene prices to join an acting class or receive training from mentors, that we form a group and practice working together on monologues, scripts, improv, etc. While I do think this to be a wise idea, especially in theory, I do think that you will need some level of expertise or at least honesty involved in order for that level of rehearsing to be effective. If we are lacking that all-knowing figure then it will be like FB goes real-life in falsely claiming that everyone is so wonderful when they aren’t really so wonderful. And then will come the questions, well who are you to tell me I’m not wonderful? I just filmed with you last week and I though you stunk up the joint.

I can see the egos flaring even now. It has to be more of a consortium. There were times when artists, actors, writers, musicians would all live in the same quarters sharing meals and lives together in close proximity. It was like a collective consortium of creativity. It would have to be like this – all ego removed, all art, all good energy, all constructive. Are we capable of such a thing? I would like to think so and I’m interested in trying to coordinate such a thing if anyone else is game.

Perhaps this would all be good concept for a class – The Business of Being an Actor.. We could find someone who is willing to share tips and expertise in how to handle things from a business perspective to ensure that we are doing everything we can to reach our financial goals, reach our potential as professional actors and not settle for anything less. It could start with basics of resumes and networking to what services to pay for and what to forgo, to how to draft a contract, and explore why here in AZ we don’t have managers or PR Reps and do we need them?

The one thing that I do know is that as an actor, I will no longer be lurking in the shadows, hanging out on street corners and giving myself away for a payoff that never comes. I can think about each and every person I have shared a stage or set with and look you dead in the eye and tell you the same thing, you have value. You have worth. You are a gift. I can’t take responsiblity for anyone else or their future nor can I force any other individual to change how they conduct themselves or their business, but I can be the change that I want to see.

It’s all just an act of faith…

Photo by friend and talented photographer Sean Kapera

Photo by friend and talented photographer Sean Kapera

Let’s get the worst part over with in the beginning – I am a Christian. I am not a Christian actor, but I am a Christian who acts. God is a huge part of my life and I feel, sadly, that most people don’t know that and for a very specific, pathetic reason. It is better to the masses that I do not speak of God at all, rather than speak of God and then post a controversial photo, clip or comment within the same 24 hour period. Most people tend to operate based on a strict standard determined by our society and organized religion, but I don’t. And now is the time for the warriors to rise.

I was raised in a Christian home and grew up in church. Those who know me on a more intimate level know that I was a victim of a cult experience run by a family member during my youth. They successfully robbed me of my identity, influenced me to separate and isolate myself from my parents and friends, and instilled in me an unbreakable sense of unworthiness. This has filtered into every component of my life, but where it has caused the most destruction is in the two areas I love the most – my relationships and my acting.

I never truly believe I am worthy to be loved or wanted. I with every fiber of my being, believe that if my significant other is presented with another opportunity or temptation he would and should choose that option because I am the lesser. Always less. In acting it is the same. I feel flawed or at a disadvantage because of this. A lot of professionals tell me that it is imperative that you believe in your ability and talent when no one else does. That you have to hold true to it in your core or you can be cut down just like little weed in a field, never to grow or blossom again. As I have become more open about my feelings of inadequacy I have also encountered others who tell me I have the tortured spirit of an artist and to embrace it; to use it. It is a gift. I do.

I have made grand improvements over the years, but it is a constant and continuous battle.

When I was forced to exit the cult by my father I had a hatred for him for making me leave. I felt he was trying to keep me away from my home. As time passed I began to understand the hard truth of the events and lost my foundation of trust in God and in people. I also grew resentful towards my father, not for removing me now, but because he took so long to do so. I felt he had failed at protecting me, from shielding me.

It was the first time I had ever seen my father cry. He wept for the sins of his family, for not wanting to forsake his mother and sister but by doing so, hurting his daughter. I forgave him within about a year as I was able to place myself in his position and understand his torment. He is my hero. During this same year I went on spiritual quest yearning to find peace and a new way to experience God. I studied everything from Buddhism and Sufism to Scientology to Catholicism to Judasim to Aethism. While I truly value this time of exploration and learning, I felt hollow inside.

I remember the day perfectly I asked God back into my heart. I shut myself in my room, sat on my little bed and told him that I wanted him back in my life, not because I had been raised or forced to do so, but because it was only in him that I felt that true peace. I asked him to give me discernment and to guide me on this spiritual journey, holding my hand every step of the way. He hasn’t left my side since.

This is where I am now. I pray to God constantly, I talk to him all throughout the day, I read a daily devotional, I take a spiritual healing class, am currently reading a three-part series of books called “Conversations With God” which has restructured a lot of my belief system and believe it or not, I have the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues.

So why do I hide this part of myself? Well let me tell you the whole grisly tale: I recently did a faith-based feature film. It began as a short film with high ambitions. When originally hired I was told that they did not want to hire only Christians, they wanted professional actors and they wanted the film to have mass appeal. Great, I thought, fabulous! This will finally be a platform for people to be introduced to God in a non-threatening way. The short was completed pretty seamlessly, but then it got picked up for distribution and they decided to extend it into a feature. I was going to be spending a lot more time with the director and producer which was a husband and wife pastor team. I was resolved not to get involved with them personally and leave the religion out of it so I tried very hard to show up on set, do my job and leave. It became challenging for me when it was clear that they had other intentions.

My Facebook and social media were being monitored regularly, they made several “conversion” attempts and the icing on the cake was when I received a phone call one day informing me that I was no longer welcome or invited to any press-related events, television interviews, radio shows or national screenings because my image was not “Christian” enough. Totally and completely hypocritical is the fact that they were totally willing to have my costar who is a devout Atheist, represent and work with them on future films, only because her image is more cleanly represented to the public. Makes sense, right? At first I was hurt, and I also felt at a loss because I had hoped that this film would have been my big break, but I quickly recovered and thought, “Who are you to tell me what my relationship with God is?” I told them this much and really haven’t had much interaction with them since. With my ego and spirit wounded I had fears of what would become of the film. They had already highlighted someone else on the poster, snubbed me for top billing in the credits despite the fact that I was the lead and when I had seen the rough cut, I was so tortured, I felt I had let my pain during the journey impact my performance. I kept feeling God saying to me over and over again, even as I wept for 3 solid days before the first public screening “Trust Me.” So I did.

The film was a body of work I was proud of. This was the first film my parents were able to invite the whole family too and share with their circle of friends, and I was able to appreciate it for what it was and then let go…

This whole experience did get me thinking about all of the other people out there who love God, but don’t say or do anything about it for fear of being condemned, judged or persecuted. In this industry especially, being identified as Christian is almost as bad if not worse as being a Republican. It has become associated with narrow-mindedness. Living in God is about living in love, for God is ultimate love and that love supersedes any and all races, sexual preferences, religious boundaries and sin.

I realize that this is a liberal concept and I for one know that I am a liberal, but how incredible would it be if we all operated with intentions of  love and openness? I had a conversation with my dad the other day about this and he proposed a very traditional viewpoint – That with approximately 2,000 Facebook friends and a following on other circuits, I am an example to others, so what does it mean when one day I post a Bible verse and the next day I post a half-naked photo of myself? I answered him quite confidently with a similar response I gave to the religious directors, “I talk to God about every role and project I take. I am at peace with the work that I do and though I do not expect everyone to support or even understand my choices, I do ask that they not judge them, for I will not judge theirs.” Here were my thoughts related to this and other common stigmas tied to religion or God in acting:

1.) God is in everyone and everything. He created it all. There is nothing you can say, do or be that could shock him. If you don’t believe that, you are placing limitations on God, the creator of the universe. God did not create and then expect us to not experience. What sort of cruel God would he be if he placed all of these things in front of you and then punished you when you reached out to try it? It is all about honoring your inner self. It does not matter what the neighbor to right or your neighbor to your left is doing, only take stock in what your heart, your soul man is telling YOU is right or wrong and make decisions based on that. You are responsible for each choice you make. A lot of folks ask about the 10 Commandments and what I am about to say is radical, but I believe God does not have commandments. This would defeat the purpose of having free-will to either live in God or live in love or not. When you are living in love, you simply will not have the desire to lie, the desire to cheat, the desire to steal and so on.

2.) The literal translation of “sin” means “to miss the mark” that is all. In other words, you tried to hit the target, but you didn’t quite make it. It does not mean that you committed some unforgivable act making you worthy of an eternity in Hell and purgatory. Also, a sin is a sin. There is no one sin, greater than another. God can forgive a person for telling a white lie just as easily as he can forgive a serial killer. It is us who have the issues forgiving and accepting.

3.) We give language weight. God did not write Webster’s dictionary nor did he ever say “You cannot say these words” It is our constructions and values we give to words that give them power. So when I accept a role that says “fuck” or “bitch” I have no shame in that. In fact, I actually curse when I pray to God especially in moments of anger or despair. They are just words. Usually I try not to cuss for fear of offending other people, not for the sake of offending my God. I do try to avoid taking the Lord’s name in vain. Rather you are a traditional Christian or modernist, I have found this is a common-held belief because there is power in the name of the creator. When you speak something you are releasing an energy into the shared matrix and when you speak it in the name of the creator it has a power that we cannot fully grasp nor comprehend. I’d rather just leave that one alone, thank you very much.

4.) I have never been ashamed of the naked body. I walk around completely nude all the time and don’t put on clothes until the last second before walking out the door. In some cultures, nudity is absolutely acceptable and even welcome and encouraged amongst family and members of the community. When it comes to film I am not a big advocate of sexualization or gratuitous nudity or sex. In Europeans films for example, if there is scene where the girl is getting undressed to hop into the shower while in mid-conversation she’ll remove her clothes before stepping into the bathroom or a scene where a mother is breast-feeding.  There is nothing sexy about it, just a natural act involving the human body. I have taken a role where I have done partial nudity and I felt personally convicted about it because I could not justify the value, so I will not be taking a role like that again, but through that experience I was able to identify my true feelings regarding this situation. I am thankful for that. As far as modeling goes, I take joy in seeing a beautiful person and hope others take joy in it as well. Science has proven that certain chemicals are released in the human brain when looking at particularly the female form that stimulate pleasure. As long as both parties are consenting, aware and comfortable with the viewing and reception of these images, there is no reason to feel guilt over such things. Taste, class, appropriateness…all a subject to personal opinion. I do not take pleasure in looking at pornographic images or again over-sexualized images, but that is determined by my inner-spirit. I have my comfort-zone, you have yours. Honor it.

5.) Just because I take a role does not mean I advocate the behaviors of that character or the actions in the story. My parents have a difficult time with this one. If I play the role of a drug addict for example, to them I might as well be a walking advertisement for narcotics. This has always been a war at home for me. My ex husband was a rave DJ and I would attend the raves with him almost every weekend. This infuriated them as they felt that I was condoning their choices to partake in drugs or other acts. For me, I would go and look around at all of these young, lost souls so desperately seeking someone to love them and if I could be that one person that showed them love; that accepted them as they were, wouldn’t that be just a huge testament to how great God’s love can be? My ex also was straight-edge, and his fans and followers were aware of that. We never condemned any of them, but we did lead by example. I am fully cognizant of the fact that this industry is inundated with drugs, sex, alcohol and living in excess but I am fully capable of playing a chain-smoking, alcoholic, heroin-addict for 10 hours on a set, walking off it and never, ever having the urge to partake in that lifestyle or making it my reality. My job as an actor is to tell a story, and what’s more, if it can positivity affect and change someone’s reality then that is what it’s all about. I’d gladly play a whore, a drug-addict, a killer, a sinner of any kind if it prevents one soul from actually being one. Plus, I cannot tell a lie, those roles are extremely rewarding and juicy as an actor to sink your teeth into.

6.) You kissed a girl on screen? You’re going to Hell because God says that all homosexuals go straight to Hell. Ummm what? Let’s talk real for a moment, homosexuality has existed since the beginning of time. It has been a part of great empires and worlds, an integral part of militant operations in the times of the Roman and Greek Empires when quite often young soldiers  were not only trained by a mentor but were also lovers with their young prodigies providing them nurturing and intimacy while away from home for long periods of time. The Bible has been re-written, re-organized, re-interpreted and re-invented by people. People. People with political agendas, personal agendas and the ability to misunderstand or misuse information at the very least, time and time again. Do not listen to what the preacher at the pulpit says, do not listen to what your parents say, listen to what your heart says. The very insanity of the idea that God would hate and automatically dispose of homosexuals is astounding to me. It shocks me that people blindly follow and accept such things. God did create male and female anatomy to reproduce and it is our responsibility to do that, but he also created our bodies for pleasure. Who are you to say that just because the body of the same sex doesn’t give you pleasure that it shouldn’t give someone else pleasure? What harm does that cause  you to see two women in love or enjoying one another? What harm does it cause either of them if they both enter into it willingly? None. So where is the sin? The sin is not being in a union to reproduce? Then a man shouldn’t marry an infertile woman if that’s true. The sin is that God created one man for one woman? Nope again – In the Bible in the old testament men had many wives, and often slept with their wive’s servants even. We have used marriage as ways to create alliances between countries, to transfer or merge property, to accelerate political or societal positions but it has very rarely ever taken root in love or spiritual matters.

Michael Alvarez showed me this video of members of the Westboro Baptist Church appearing on Russell Brand‘s show Brand X. I did a little digging and as it turns out, Brand is extremely intelligent, spiritually enlightened and extremely candid in his struggle with various addictions. I read his blog regularly now. Watch the clip and you tell me, who is acting and living in love:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OBA6qlHW8po

It is on the rare occasion that you will hear an actor thanking God for winning their academy award, but other than that it is radio silence. I am not proposing that we all start a new Hollywood church or start blasting the Facebook newsfeed with daily Bible verses, but I do have a hope that we can move to create a more open environment for people not only to express a love for God, but just to feel free to express and be who they really are.

This is an excerpt from Book II of Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. It sums up a shift of collective consciousness:

“Seek only Godliness.

Speak only in truthfulness. Act only in love. Live the Law of Love now and forevermore.

Give everything, require nothing.

Avoid the mundane.

Do not accept the unacceptable.

Teach all who seek to learn of Me.

Make very moment of your life an outpouring of love.

Use every moment to think the highest thought, say the highest word, do the highest deed. In this, glorify your Holy Self, and thus, too, glorify Me.

Bring peace to the Earth by bringing peace to all those whose lives you touch. Be peace. Feel and express in every moment your Divine Connection with the All, and with every person, place and thing.

Embrace every circumstance, own every fault, share every joy, contemplate every mystery, walk in every man’s shoes, forgive every offense (including your own), heal every heart, honor every person’s truth, adore every person’s God, protect every person’s dignity, promote every person’s interests, provide every person’s needs, presume every person’s holiness, present every person’s greatest gifts, produce every person’s blessing and pronounce every person’s future secure in the assured love of God.

Be a living, breathing example of the Highest Truth that resides within you.

Speak humbly of yourself, lest someone mistake your Highest  Truth for a boast. Speak softly, lest someone think you are merely calling for attention. Speak gently, that all might know Love. Speak openly, lest someone think you have something to hide. Speak candidly, so you cannot be mistaken. Speak often, so that your word my truly go forth. Speak respectfully, that no one be dishonored. Speak lovingly, that every syllable may heal. Speak of Me with every utterance.

Make of your life a gift. Remember always, you are the gift. Be a gift to everyone who enters your life, and to everyone whose life you enter. Be careful not to enter another’s life if you cannot be a gift. (You can always be a gift, because you always are a gift – yet sometimes you don’t let yourself know that.) When someone enters you life unexpectedly, look for the gift that person has come to receive from you. Why else do you think a person has come to you? I tell you this: every person who has ever come to you has come to receive a gift from you. In so doing, he gives a gift to you – the gift of your experiencing and fulfilling Who You Are. When you see this simple truth, when you understand it, you see the greatest truth of all:

I HAVE SENT YOU NOTHING BUT ANGELS.”