AND THEN THERE WERE NONE: When Opportunities Dry Up, and Disappointment Abounds, Fortitude is the Best Defense

            The last couple of weeks in our family have been a conglomerate of these adages. All four of my children have dipped their toe into the acting industry. All four began their journeys on stage and have, in one form or another, had the opportunity to step on set for the small or big screen.  There are so many things to love about the industry and the process of acting, and it is those things that feed the “courage to continue.” Then there are weeks like these when the slow and steady suddenly becomes the harried busy underscored by the excitement of (dare we say it?) the hope of a successful booking. Cautious optimism gives way to a tempered thrill as the audition success becomes the Producer callback. THIS is now to be celebrated and laden with such new adages as “the callback is the victory,” and “even if nothing comes of it, at least you know you booked the room!” Yet even in this celebratory moment, the undesirable knowledge that it might not last and the rejection could still be waiting on the horizon creeps in, threatening to steal the thrill of the small victory.  

  After the callback, (this particular one was for my middle daughter) she feels great about her performance and felt they truly liked it and they told her she did an amazing job executing the long list of directions they gave her so again—count it a success! One of the great life lessons to be learned in the acting industry is that success is how you define it. I doubt anyone who has not ventured through this process would consider these small victories “success.”. But over the years we have learned to because if you do not celebrate these things, there may be very long intervals where no pats on the back are to be found and confidence gets crushed.

            Later, my daughter gets a call that they did indeed “like” her and she is in the mix for the role and pinned to network test.  This is very exciting news! Network test is the last step before booking the role and they often seem to test only about 3 people so from that standpoint, odds begin looking better! In the meantime, she auditions for a smaller role but on a prominent series. More great news—she is pinned for this role! At this point, there is an elated feeling akin to reaching the top of that first hill on the roller coaster. The climbing work is paused and coasting is about to begin.  Surely ONE of these two great opportunities is bound to work out?!  Right?

            The next day she finds out she did not book the small role. Yep, you guessed it, the day after she also finds out she is no longer pinned to test, they have gone in a different direction for her role.  Suddenly instead of the sensation of being at the top of the hill and ready to coast down and enjoy the thrilling ride, turns into the sensation that you are now rolling backwards ALL the way to the start again! It is exacerbated by the fact that no other auditions have come in so there appears to be nothing on the horizon to distract from this feeling of failure and disappointment.  The wealth of opportunity so suddenly in reach is just as quickly dissipated. 

            This moment is the real test.  This moment will in turn either bring bitterness and discouragement which could then affect the next opportunity coming; or even worse, lead to quitting altogether. OR, this disappointment will be followed by new determination to never give up and not allow anyone else to determine whether your dreams are worth pursuing—“Failure is not fatal.”  Most of us will need to wallow in our disappointment for at least a short time before reaching down for our proverbial boot straps and pulling them up. The important thing though, is not how long it takes to reach down and pull them up, but that the action in fact occurs.  

            Fortitude is the best and only defense in these situations. It is rare in any walk of life to meet or read about someone who embarked on a journey, or a dream or a career and found instant success.  There are FAR more examples of people who first met with the exact tribulation you are currently facing.  I repeatedly remind my children of this when opportunities that feel so close you could touch them suddenly leap out of reach once again.  Stories like Meryl Streep being told as a young actress that she would never be beautiful enough to be a lead—3-time Best Leading Actress Oscar winner.  Audra McDonald never garnering a lead role while at Juilliard—6 time Tony winner (more performance wins than any other actor). These ladies had “the courage to continue” not only in spite of facing defeat but because of it. Instead of letting their “haters” cause them to doubt themselves and shake their confidence, they chose to “doubt those who doubted them” and continue working towards their dreams. They had fortitude. 

            It has taken me so long to finish these thoughts that there is now a happy ending so I suppose that’s what was meant to be! Same daughter received an email a couple of days ago telling her she was pinned for yet another role.  An audition she had forgotten about for the lead role in a small independent film. Yesterday she received the phone call she’s been waiting for telling her she is booked! She booked the role she was hoping for and today was her first day on set.  She is already looking ahead for what could be “next” and has another audition due Friday.  She knows already that this success is “not final” and though there will surely be more “failures” ahead, she will not forget that it is “the courage to continue that counts!” 

The Last Minute…

A phrase I have a love/hate relationship with. A phrase that strikes fury into the heart of many moms (including me). “Why did you wait until the last minute?!” followed by the knowledge that all previous hopes for a good night’s sleep have been dashed! And yet, some of the most memorable, glorious and joy-filled moments also seem to come at “the last minute.”  

In a family of 6, there is a lot more of “the last minute” than there is of the planned and organized minute. A minimum of low level chaos is the bread and butter of existence. Now that my oldest two have flown off to college (even this decision came down to that inevitable “last minute!”), there are fewer things that fall through the cracks to demand attention at the last minute. 

This last weekend life took a sudden turn to the more chaotic due to an opportunity afforded to my youngest. (Being an actor comes with a bevy of “last minutes” that take a bit of getting used to!) I unexpectedly found myself scrambling to check flight and hotel prices at the last minute. How would I ever manage to pull together all the details and be organized enough to make this happen? I sat at the computer running searches and adding options until I had so much nervous energy built up I had to get up and pace the house for several minutes with thoughts swirling through my brain faster than I could make sense of them. Yet within all this chaos I found a certain measure of satisfaction and enjoyment at how wonderful this experience would be for my son (and husband who would accompany him and my daughter who was now determined to join them). With each task I checked off my list, the stress and panic decreased while my joy and excitement increased. There was a buoyancy in me that I knew meant, despite all the current stress and chaos of trying to pull it together, I was going to always hold happy memories of the moment and the excitement that shone in the midst. 

This started me thinking about how many other times in my life had “the last minute” carried with it more joy in the outcome than frustration of late planning? Sure, there are lots of memories in college of miserable last minute scrambling due to procrastination; and staying up all night to complete 25 page research papers prior to class the next morning. (After all, they only gave us the entire semester to work on it!). But more memories came flooding in of “last minutes” that provided adventure and fun and ended up being more perfect than many of the planned ones!  Date nights with my husband that turned in to lovely, memorable evenings and a favorite new haunt to visit. “Last minute” dinners with friends that led to long comfortable evenings filled with laughter and good wine. I ended up taking a “last minute” trip with my oldest daughter last Spring to accompany her to the Cannes film festival (see what I mean about the actor’s life?). I was still thinking “I just can’t make this work,” when I boarded the plane to meet her and now I am forever grateful for amazing memories we made together that will bring me joy for a lifetime. 

I have lovely memories of times when one of my besties needed a “last minute” ride to radiation or a transfusion during her battle with Multiple Myeloma. Although the purpose of the outing was not pleasant, the conversation, laughter and “normal” moments we shared were the best and much needed medicine. It is a rather odd thing when someone becomes very ill, especially with a long-term disease.  I liken it to becoming famous in some quirky way.  Suddenly the friend you felt free to call on at any moment, and spend much of your free time with becomes someone you worry about inconveniencing because they are constantly in demand with their family and other friends who want to cherish each moment with them as well. I had to make a conscious decision to not allow this fact to intimidate me from communicating with her. Thanks to this decision, one of my favorite “last minute” memories is one I share with this dear friend. 

I was driving back from delivering kids to school and starting to plan my day.  There was a long list of things I needed to accomplish for the week and with my day open I was planning what to tackle first.  I thought of my sweet friend and prayed for her as I did every morning and lamented the fact that our relationship felt hindered by her cancer. I picked up the phone and called her to see if she could spare time for a cup of coffee or brunch.  She was thrilled to get out of the house and met me 15 minutes later for what ended up being one of my favorite memories with her. We sipped coffee and ordered breakfast dishes while we laughed and caught up and solved a myriad of problems for the world to our way of thinking. She shared with me many worries she had for some different things her kiddos were experiencing and her concern for how those might be handled if her time here were to run out. I listened intently and shared ideas with her and promised her repeatedly that if she were to journey on without us I would do my darndest to insure her lovely nurturing thoughts and decisions would be imparted to her children. As the hours flew by and our meals had long been finished we went back to sipping coffee. There was an unspoken lingering for both of us, not wanting to let the moment go and slip into the harried afternoon carpools and dinner prep.  I like to think that in some way our hearts were attempting to memorize each other so that in a time to come when we could no longer share laughs and love, tears and coffee, we would still be able to conjure the loving warmth of our long and deep friendship.  

That turned out to be the last time she and I shared a meal together. Her health took a rather sudden turn for the worse and although I did see her again, it wasn’t with the same levity and freedom we enjoyed that day. 

So, while “the last minute” may continue to wreak havoc on even the most calm among us, I hope that the vast majority will bring unmitigated joy and adventure! 


I’ve heard grief described as swimming in an ocean…just as you come up for air and think all is calm, another wave hits you, knocking you under for another tumble. I think this is a very accurate analogy, especially during those initial days of shock when your heart and mind are trying to decipher this impossible information like a child attempting to comprehend hieroglyphics. I think I was fairly prepared for this portion, although I did not care at all for the sudden blinding pain of being smacked in the face with those huge stinging swells. 

         What has come more of a surprise to me; however, is that grief is not content to scurry on its way after the plundering, but instead decides to take up residence like an over-extended house guest. It often sits in the corner pretending to be politely staying out of the way so you can go about your business, then suddenly you notice it clinging to your coattails, weighing you down until you give in to its cloying and focus all your unwilling attention on it. 

         Oddly, what I have found in recent days is that giving in to its persistent tug has a surprisingly contradictory effect. I thought that giving in meant that it would overtake me and somehow swallow me whole so I could never escape it. Instead, I have found that the confrontation soon shrinks the size of the monster considerably until I actually find comfort in the cleanse of fresh tears. A few moments later, tears of sadness transform into tears of happiness over welcome memories of secrets shared and successes celebrated. Soon a burst of laughter escapes me as a particularly funny moment resurfaces, as fresh and joyful as when it originally occurred.  It is in this moment that I realize I do not need to continue playing an unending game of hide and seek with Grief. That in fact, Grief is indeed my friend, albeit a bit bipolar in the emotional swings it carries me on, but a necessary companion on this journey nonetheless. 

         In the coming weeks and months, I will try to remind myself that although most days I would prefer not to host this guest, soon enough the visits will diminish and in the wake I will find myself a little more wise and kind and a lot more grateful for every moment I am graced to share with the family and friends I hold dear.