Can I bore you with details of my morning routine for a moment? First things first: coffee — I’m old-school; I use a silver stove-top espresso machine and Cuban coffee that’s a cocoa bean or two removed from chocolate milk. While it’s brewing and filling the house with the most amazing odor known to man, I feed the cat, clean the litterbox, and make my bed. Then, I take my coffee, now mated in perfect harmony with soy milk, to the floor of my living room where I begin a yoga practice that has been in place for close to fifteen years. It’s not virtue I’m after, it’s sanity: without it, I am not fit to engage in social discourse with another human. In fact, without it, even animals should be afraid. It, and the meditation afterwards, allow me to show up in the world in the way that I want to show up: relatively calm, often friendly and — for the most part — sane.
But about a quarter into my meditation, something gnaws at me. I try to ignore it, but my mind wanders toward it, like my dog used to do when she knew there was a chicken bone lying on the sidewalk halfway down the block. Not now, I tell myself; focus, dammit. I try, and for a few minutes I succeed, but then I jump up and run to it; and as I see it come to life, my body relaxes — really relaxes, as opposed to yoga relaxes — like a junkie immediately after a fix.
I’ve turned on the computer. I’m connected to the cosmic life support that even sleep and coffee and yoga haven’t kept me from craving.
What is it about seeing that gmail button sink like a soft pillow beneath the weight of my pointing arrow? To see the list of emails line up like handsome cadets in a Taylor Hackford movie? What about it causes me to interrupt my meditation — the only meditation I will most likely do for the next twenty-four hours?
There is the fact that I’m single, and email is often the first contact I’ve made with another human in my post-yogic state. But if I’m honest, I’d say it’s anticipation (cue the song). Anticipation of that special email — the one with a star next to it whose subject line doesn’t mention something about a deal for a facial or a petition to fight the jailing of an innocent Russian pop singer. It’s the one that says you won a contest or booked a job or even just have an audition.
It’s the one that, for an artist, says you exist.
Most mornings I do not get those special emails.
So I started to ponder that craving for validation because, all joking aside, the need for a “fix” was starting to feel a little too real; and the flip side, not getting it, was responsible for more blah days than I wanted to admit.
For some reason my own self-initiated projects came to mind: a play I wrote and self-produced. The web series I wrote, produced and star in. Are those projects of any less value because I made them as opposed to Center Theatre Group or HBO? Talk about commitment and confidence: Tyler Perry self-produced and self-funded his own work for years before someone paid him to do it, and even now, he retains full control of everything his company turns out.
Then, a funny thing happened: in stepping away from the slightly desperate need for outside validation, I started to see the broad sweep of my career. I started to realize I’d be doing it whether someone tells me I fit into their idea of brilliant or not. I’d do it even if the letter I’ve ceremoniously placed on my makeshift altar that informs me I’m a semi-finalist does not yield another that says I’ve won. My epiphany (if you will) has given me a renewed commitment to my art.
And that (and my coffee) is what gets me up in the morning.