My first collision was at the age of five when my mother was institutionalized and spent a full year bearing the weight of severe depression.
Prior to that time she shone so much of her light on me I believed myself the center of the universe. Within her light I was safe to show up as my fullest expression. In the absence of her light, the safety I felt was obliterated. Before her depression I was special. During it, I felt invisible, like I was nothing; less than nothing.
This tension between feeling special and feeling like nothing is the tension in my life that I dance with. I have unconsciously built my life to reflect my specialness back to me. Learning to perform, to achieve, to win, to succeed, to make the papers, are all tactics to soothe myself, because “special” feels safe.
And yet, safety is not guaranteed. Because every five to ten years, like clockwork, I endure a major collision between “special” and “nothing.”
For example, when I left college as a big fish and arrived in LA in 1997 as nothing.
When my first storytelling company imploded in 2001.
When I left LA in 2005 and had no idea who I was if I wasn’t an actor.
In 2013, when I was turning 39 and thought my marriage was in trouble.
My latest collision occurred at 1:13am on October 27, 2021, when my mother passed away in her sleep.
Each version of my collision between “special” and “nothing” shakes me to my core. Each time I wonder if I’ll ever feel “special” again.
This relationship is the story of my life. I know how to shine a light on others so they glow; how to use that light earnestly for good, to bend people and get what I want, and to wield its sharp edges when I want someone to hurt. I also intimately know the pain of feeling invisible, unseen, trapped in the dark. Not only have I structured my life in an attempt to avoid that pain, but I’ve built a career on holding space for others enduring that pain and reflecting back to them what is special about who they are, as my mother did for me. My work, however, is not to worship my specialness and eradicate my nothingness; but to respect both like the inhale and the exhale they are; necessary to my existence.
Life has carved this unique relationship I adore and abhor. It frames how I see every moment before me. It shapes the story I tell myself about who I am and who you are. It holds the very essence of my purpose.
You have a series of collisions that have defined your life. It is inescapable. Learn what you’re dancing with. It’s the key to how you are meant to be of service to this world.