Suggested Listening: “Dreams” –The Cranberries
All of last year I was starring in a hit Broadway show called MOTOWN where I got to portray one of pop histories most iconic women of all time, Diana Ross. Now, it was a huge honor and a commitment and boy-oh-boy was the schedule rigorous and grueling. You see, Broadway is six days a week, eight shows a week, sometimes even more shows are packed in for the holidays. I was completely consumed by the world that was MOTOWN, getting press and only seeing what was directly in my path. Basically, I had no life.
Then January 18th, 2015 hit and MOTOWN on Broadway took its final bow. That meant, no more routine, no more busy hermit, no more distraction. That meant the horrible creeping in of the fear of the unknown. Then the fact that that big thing I had allowed to validate my entire self-worth was now done and gone. To add further insult to injury, the paycheck was also gone. All those things that we all use to validate ourselves and prove that we have meaning and purpose on this earth were suddenly missing in my life.
I believe that no matter what your line of work is, it is easy to create your identity around that which sustains your lifestyle and gives you a title. A quick and powerful way to explain just who you are, “She’s a doctor” or “He just booked a movie, he’s a star”. It is usually the first thing we ask a stranger at a party (sometimes even before remembering their name), “So…what do you do?” Instantly, upon hearing their response we assess their value, our own value and proceed accordingly. Most of us allow these things to define us. We are special when we are useful or when we seem to know what the hell we are doing. When we have our lives mapped out or a title that gives us a sense of validation.
Right now, one could title me as “Krystal: an unemployed, moderately homeless gypsy with a cat named Lucky”. Holy shit, that is the most depressing thing I have ever written.
In my line of work, this is just the name of the game, one minute you are on top, too busy for everyone and “So HOT right now”. The next minute they are taking down your billboard in Times Square and replacing it with the newest “HOT” thing.
So yes, the above statements may be true but let’s look at the reality of the situation…
EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY.
As I sit in meditation, (fyi- I can’t meditate to save my life) on this theory that everything is temporary, it seems to give me more peace then attempting to sit in silence pretending that my thoughts aren’t happening. And what is that saying about an idle mind? Oh yeah, “An idle mind, is the devils playground”.
Being the eternal optimist, I decided I was ready for a new hustle, new challenges. Hell, I just got signed to one of the biggest management agencies in LA with a baller team, so -fuck yeah! – I was ready for new! I packed up my tiny East Village apartment and my kitten and flew to Los Angeles Feb. 1, 2015.
I did not want to be trapped in the unknown stillness, sitting in the awful cliché adage that EVERYONE seemed to be chirping at me as I am making my goodbye rounds in NYC: “Well, Krystal, when one door closes, another door opens”. Yeah but guess what…in the meantime, It’s HELL IN THE HALLWAY.
For a while I was doing AWESOME at being fake busy. I was auditioning a lot, taking meetings, “doing” lunches, moving from Airbnb nightmare to Airbnb nightmare, parties, catching up with old friends and exes. Anything, to not be alone and lonely. But then, things started to slow down. My manic need for busyness and constant movement but having next to NOTHING to do seriously started to freak me out. I found myself asking all my LA friends “So, what exactly do you do here?” And they normally replied the same, “You know, hike, work out, relax.” RELAX?!!?!? I don’t remember a time that I really relaxed. Sitting on even the most beautiful beaches in the world for a week makes me itchy with restless anxiety.
But what I want to know is, why is this so hard for me to relax or be at peace? As I talk to friends, I realize it is not just me who has these nagging thoughts. Why do our minds immediately throw our entire identities and self-awareness into chaos when we have stopped moving or problem solving. I find myself marveling in wonder (and jealousy) at how people can truly meditate and find a quiet mind. How does one really shut off all the chatter and noise that propels them to keep moving, talking, thinking, distracting.
To be completely honest, last year, throwing myself into work was a much-needed vacation from the hell that was my personal life. I was going through the WORST break-up of my life and my mom’s fiancé had just passed away from lung cancer, actually the day before I stepped on stage as Diana Ross January 23, 2014. So there I am, drowning myself in work, anything to escape my reality which was…I’m alone and lonely…with a cat. (WTF) But to the outside world, I was successful, in-demand and happy – according to all my Facebook and Instagram posts. For twelve months, I had the awesome luxury of scooping all my crap, all my icky-feelings under this rug and I figured I’d deal with these feelings later…much, much later, years later, or better yet, decades later. Most likely with the help of good friends, or therapy or booze but typically, all the above.
Soon I became my work and my title, it made me feel complete, accepted, worthy of attention or love or some false sense of connection that comforted me when I heard the sound of thousands of strangers applauding at the end of the night. But now all that stuff that I could hide behind was gone. So what do you do in those times you are stuck with uncertainty, the unknown future and you realize you are trapped in the hallway of your past and future life?
Realizing that just as that heartache and grief had slowly lifted itself from my shoulders, spirit and daily thoughts, it had somehow transformed into a necessary part of my history. That meant that maybe the tension and stress of white knuckling it through this ‘transition period’ too shall pass. When I start to dissect my thoughts in this very new headspace, I am becoming aware that having this “time off” might be a blessing in disguise. This can be a moment to check in with me. To maybe process those feelings I have been sweeping under that rug for so long. This could be a moment to restart doing the things I once loved but stopped doing because busy-ness got in the way.
The fears associated with being valued by our work or our failures and the need for our talents to be noted by others is something we all really need to sit with ourselves about. I wonder why my most talented, intelligent and bravest friends working in various fields find themselves languishing over inane questions like, “Will I ever work again?” “Was that my last job?” “Am I good?” “Am I worth having more?” “Will people think I’m worthless?” “Will I still be loved”? And I get it. I totally get that fear. I fear those fears. While we are sitting in the hallway of Hell, white knuckling it through the torcher of being completely with ourselves or your own reality, if we could only switch our thinking to see the inexplicable, unpredictable quickness of it all.
The fact that time is passing so fast, life changes in an instant, can’t it just be lovely to breathe it in and prepare for whatever is next? To not tie oneself and self-worth to the next achievement and next goal. To sit in the sun and think about your grief, process it and move on. Think about your heartbreak, process it and move on. Make space for more, make space for new. Revel in the beauty of the fruits of your hard work and sacrifices. Perhaps, when life slows down it presents a golden opportunity to just create your own new routine, take the time to be present and grateful.
Oddly enough, this time away from the hustle and bustle of New York City has motivated me to do things that I have never imagined I would or could do. I worked on a really funny web series where I met one of my new best friends. I’m working with legendary record producers writing songs which means I’m in the studio again, something I have truly missed. I also talk to colleges and performance-art schools about theatre and actor life. It’s a joy to get the chance to inspire people. Plus, I am writing again and working with this gorgeous magazine that truly inspires me. Oh! And I’ve started a business! (Lord knows how that’ll go but it’s exciting!) It seems not having a plan is proving be my best plan. Instead of dreading the silence and the free time, we could start changing that dialogue in our heads. Remember that you have achieved some dreams and goals and now it may be time to start making new ones.
I have become firm believer that when one door closes, another door opens. And yeah, sure, it may be “Hell in the Hallway” right now and your patience and spirit are low. If you haven’t yet graduated to Yogi Buddhahood, try to just meditate on the fact that ALL OF THIS, the good, the bad and the ugly, is only temporary. Enjoy the space and silence. You may just learn something new about you.
Suggestions for an Idle Mind:
- Eat good food
- Get your body together! Work out!
- Catch up with old friends
- Avoid too much Facebook and Social Media
- Make it a mission to find new music you love
- Catch up with family
- Fix any unsolved issues in your relationships
- Catch up on your finances
- Go out, party, enjoy life but leave when your bored or when you are at the right amount of drunk
Word Count: 1,707
Krystal Joy Brown “KJ Brown” is the Lifestyle & Culture writer at Spirit & Flesh bringing you opinions, articles on pop culture featuring healthy & not-so-healthy living, interviews and coverage of current and high profile events.
KJ is an actress, singer, songwriter who has been seen in four Broadway shows and T.V. She resides in NYC & LA where she is current.ly working on her forthcoming novel “Girls Guide to Dealing with the Devil”. For more, check out her blog www.krystaljoybrown.wix.com/a-girls-guide-blog or her website www.krystaljoybrown.com. To look out for this is a Bi-weekly column SUBSCRIBE.