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8:31 am - Sun 6/12/05
Drenched In Anxiety And Flop Sweat

Drenched In Anxiety And Flop Sweat

Had an unsettling thought pop into my head recently--"If death just means 'the lights go out', maybe that wouldn't be so bad..."--a thought that suggests I'm feeling especially tired, stressed, and borderline-defeated of late (Starting to longingly think about "the sweet release of death" does seem like a sign your life may be going in a wrong direction).

(News Flash: I think there may have just been a small earthquake...for maybe five seconds, I felt my apartment rocking back-and-forth, ever so slightly. The walls were actually creaking, the first time I've heard my apartment make noise like that. And I didn't exactly "spring into action"--By the time I thought to move under a doorway, it stopped. But anyway...)

(Moments later...Just getting the news: The earthquake was 5.6, 20 miles south of Palm Springs. A pretty big earthquake, actually, but far enough away that I only felt the little bit of shifting I just described.)

Now where was I...?

To anyone who's concerned about that "sweet release of death" sentiment, don't worry--I don't plan on killing myself.

That's just my mind's melodramatic way of telling me that I'm feeling really anxious and frustrated and scared and stuck.

It just seems like everything I do, whether I'm trying to "do the right thing" or trying to avoid "doing the right thing", makes me feel bad. And I just wish it would stop. I wish I could catch my breath. I wish I could get a moment's rest, a moment's peace.

It's such a global feeling of being "stuck", of feeling "trapped", that it's hard for me to put it into words, to sort it out in here in a way that I feel like people would understand.

Of course, the biggest problem is money.

My job at the bookstore has never paid me the way I need to be paid out here--Not enough to have a life, not enough to do the things I need to do in terms of my acting career (Clothes, classes, workshops, etc), and certainly not enough to save for the future--and under the current GM's benevolent "leadership", things have gotten much worse (I've lost 20 hours a month from my paycheck, starting a week or two before Xmas this past year, which means, unequivocally, that I can not live on what I'm making, no matter how much I scrimp and save. The bookstore money will just not cover "the basics". The fact that I'm still here, instead of back in Michigan or living in a box somewhere, is because of "extra" monies like my tax refund, The small Jack-In-The-Box checks I get every thirteen weeks, and the $1000 gift from a generous D-land reader.

People have suggested getting another job, but if I were to get another job, if it were a job in addition to the bookstore, when would I be acting? I'm already not doing that enough as it is (I'm not a kid, after all. I don't have the time to "take a break" from acting for a couple years and go back to school, or work three jobs, or what-have-you. The more time I let go by out here, the fewer acting opportunities I'm going to have).

And in terms of just getting another job altogether, what could I do that would pay me any better? While allowing me the flexibility I need for auditions?

How do I know I wouldn't be "jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire"?

And I'm already exhausted as things stand. There's a continuing drumbeat in my head goes something like this: "Oh my God, Jim--You're dead on your feet just trying to get by out here, and you're getting older and tired-er by the minute. How the hell are you going to actually improve your situation when you can barely get through the day as it is?"

And I owe people money. I still owe Mark and Jane $1400 for the car (Over 3 years, I've managed to pay them $800 of the $2200 they loaned me), and now I owe Cary $1500, a loan that was supposed to be for SAG membership.

(I thought I was going to need that loan from Cary when I did the G.E. extra gig. When I didn't, I should have given the money back to him right away, but I optimistically assumed the next SAG gig would be right-around-the-corner, and I'd need the money then. So I hung onto it...and of course, once David cut my hours, apparently for good, that money drained away for rent and food and what-have-you. So now, in addition to owing Cary $1500, I still have a big SAG membership fee in my future.)

I should be paying those people back something--anything--but I'm not (I haven't paid Mark and Jane anything yet this year. And I haven't paid Cary anything at all).

And I'm not overstating my situation here. I'm obviously strapped, not even living "from paycheck to paycheck"...which leads me to feel guilty whenever I do anything that involves spending money.

I honestly don't spend a lot of money, relatively speaking, on frivolous things. But when you have no money, spending anything "frivolously" is too much.

I don't have the money for movies (I've seen, I think, seven so far this year).

I don't have the money for "action figures" (A lot of the figures I have--at least nine of them-- were outright gifts, while others were purchased with store gift cards. But be that as it may, I'm guessing I've spent at least $100 on toys in the time I've been out here, spending actual money. And under the circumstances, that seems a little bit crazy and irresponsible).

I don't have the money for restaurants and fast food (In addition to the "money issue", it's a pretty bad idea anyway. I don't feel as if I do it that often--I went to Denny's on Thursday for the first time this year, for example--but I have bad little "streaks" where I make up for lost time. In fact, after recently giving up in frustration on trying to lose weight, I've been in the middle of one of those streaks. And I've gotten to the point where there could be a third less of me and I'd still be a pretty substantial guy, so obviously, something has gone wrong somewhere).

I know I'm doing wrong when I do those things, however little money I'm spending, but if I never went to the movies, if I never bought myself anything I enjoyed, if I never treated myself to a hamburger or a bag of M&Ms, if I couldn't provide myself even these occasional small pleasures, if my life, in effect, got even smaller, where would I be then? Why would I even leave my apartment on a day off? I already feel like my life is pathetically small and joyless; how can I bring myself to make it even more so?

(And you'll notice those "pleasures" I list are all solitary ones. All those things are less expensive than going on a date, were the opportunity to present itself, or even socializing with a friend like John O.)

I could go on and on and on (And then for variety, go on and on some more).

I should be taking acting classes.

I should be able to date, were I to meet someone.

I should be able to save money "for the future".

I should be able to pay my bills.

I should be able to pay people back the money I owe them.

I should be able to have some things I want, whether they're "frivolous" or not.

But I can't.

(Well, let's be accurate--For now, I am paying my bills. But I live in constant fear the bottom is going to drop out at any time.)

And I'm trying to find my way out of all this. That's what the Notary crap is all about.

And that should feel good, shouldn't it? I see a small light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm moving towards it. I am trying to "take charge" of my financial circumstances by learning how to do something that might afford me a decent wage.

But it doesn't "feel good". At all. I feel stressed and afraid and "not up to the task". I've spent over $400 on this shit, and the expenses are still going--After this class on Thursday, I'll have to take another certification test, get business cards and stationary and god knows what else, get an ad in the yellow pages--and all in the service of something I don't know if I'm going to be any good at, for an uncertain income (What if L.A. has all the notaries it needs right now? What if I'm no better at summoning the energy to make this work than I am at making anything work in my life?).

I don't feel good about anything right now.

Part II

Well, let me amend that last statement--I feel good about one thing.

Sort of.

Last week, I was talking to a guy in my building, as we were doing laundry.

Turns out he's a voiceover artist, and as we commiserated over our lot in life, and I was saying how I know I should be taking classes but have no money, he mentioned a group he's involved in.

They do play study and the like, and periodically have "agent nights" and "casting director nights" and so on (And he said you only have to pay when there's going to be an agent or casting director there, though I couldn't really see how that would work--They have some sort of thing going every night of the week--and it turns out Logan mis-spoke or I misunderstood, or something, because the flyer I was sent home with have classes listed at $25-30 per class. Which, granted, is really cheap, but is still $100-120 a month extra I don't have).

(This guy I was talking to, Logan, is an interesting character. I've ran into him in the building before, usually as we were crossing paths coming in or out of the building on our bikes. He's African-American, with dreadlocks, and a voice about two octaves lower than mine. He doesn't work a "straight job", but doesn't sugar-coat it as being particularly exciting or glamorous--He told me he lays on the floor of his apartment sometimes and cries because he doesn't know where the money to pay his bills is going to come from. To be sure, this is not a life for sissies...which makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing out here.)

Anyway, I arranged to have someone work part of my shift on Friday, and went with Logan to this "Actors Co-op Group".

And it was a total dud.

I still don't really understand what happened--We went in, and there was a group of a half-dozen or so young women (Initially, I thought that was pretty cool), who were there to work on a play they're doing.

Logan only knew one of them, and didn't know they were going to rehearse all night.

I only met John Ennis, the leader, in passing, and the only "acting" I did was when I went outside with Logan to run lines for the play he's working on, Alan Ayckbourn's Comic Potential (In order to be invited into their little club, you have to audition by reading something for them. Which I didn't get to do).

I briefly felt good about at least reading a scene with someone (And being pretty good at it), but that brief good feeling wasn't worth missing half a night's work (And now I've got to go in on my day off Wednesday and work for the person who worked for me. Which is not what I understood our deal to be).

It was all I could do afterwards not to go off on Logan--"Don't you even fucking know what they're going to be doing on a given night?"--and I was so disappointed over how things had gone I wanted to cry.

It seems like every time I try to do something that sort of smells like acting out here, all I get for my efforts is a huge letdown.


On the 25th, they have casting directors Deborah George and Junie-Lowry-Johnson, casting directors who have cast for the late-lamented NYPD Blue, Desperate Housewives, Six Feet Under, and Deadwood, amongst other shows.

And I need to be seen out here (To give you some perspective--In the going on five years I've been out here, while I've auditioned for maybe 150 commercials, I've had one tv show audition, for Strong Medicine, and one movie audition, for A Day Without Mexicans).

So that being said, the idea that the casting director who first saw Dennis Franz could soon be seeing me is very exciting.

So I'm trying to get Monday off to go back to with Logan, so I can read for John Ennis, so I can be in their group, so I can go to that "casting director workshop" (Happily, that's on a Saturday morning).

If I get in--And why wouldn't I, really?--I'm wondering if I can just pay for being "seen" by these casting director/agent people?

(I've said before, I can't "cry poverty" to the point where I can't "get the job done" out here. But by the same token, if I have limited/non-existent funds, it makes sense to spend money, when I have to, where it'll do the most good.)

I want to go back to the thing on Monday with Logan, but if I can't get someone to work for me, is it worth getting the "occurrence" and just going anyway? That's the dilemma that's been stressing me out the past day or two.

(Just called the Co-op place. I left a message asking that, if I can't make it back on Monday with Logan, would someone be able to see me on Wednesday night? I have to work at the bookstore for Anna till 8:00, but I could maybe drive there afterwards.)

My stomach hurts...

This is another area where I feel a lot of "stress" (It's been there since I first got out here, and has never gone away for a second): I can't respect my job at the bookstore so much that I let it override the acting stuff, but the bookstore pays the bills...sort of...while the acting, for now, does not. And beyond that, I feel this comflict: I want to be a good guy and not let people down--David can go fuck himself, basically, but I do have some feeling for my coworkers at the store--and don't like the idea of leaving them in the lurch. I know what it feels like to work short-handed.

I feel so much pressure between those two poles that I sometimes think my head's going to explode.

Yes, I have to basically "look out for myself" out here, but what does that mean exactly? Being a good guy at the bookstore, while acting slips by the wayside, or putting acting first, while I lose my job (And that issue would be an issue whether I'm at Borders, or at any "straight job". It's a big reason the Notary thing looks appealing--My hope is that I'll have enough flexibility with appointments that I can make it work with what I really want to do).

And all this stuff I've gone on about for days now? It only scratches the surface of fear and anxiety and stress I'm carrying around with me.

Where does love figure into all this? Where's the time for that? Where's the money? Where's the opportunity? Am I just going to be alone forever?

What if something happens to me? I have absolutely no means to deal with a debilitating injury or illness. And on the heels of Chris M's untimely demise, you know I've been thinking about what the hell happens if I should "blow a gasket". I've joked about it in the past, but I really don't want to be put in a Hefty bag on the curb. But on the other hand, I hate the idea of my last act being to stick someone with a funeral bill.

And what happens if I don't blow a gasket? If, against all odds, I manage to acheive some measure of success out here, it's a moot point, but what if I just get old and increasingly infirm, without any more money than I've got now, and without gaining the necessary self-respect it would take under those circumstances to kill myself?

What then?

There's just no choice...barring suicide (Which I don't want to do, because maybe the lights don't just "go out" when you die. Maybe the fundamentalists are right, and bad people like me go to Hell, and burn in a lake of fire. I sort of feel like that's probably not gonna happen, but who's to say it won't?), barring ending it all just so I won't have to try anymore, I'm just going to have to succeed, in spite of obstacles from without and within.

But how?

Stay tuned...


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