By Bethany Rooney
I was born an optimist. Lucky, I know. I not only see the glass as half-full, I think it’s a pitcher. Bigger, better, full of more good stuff. I was blessed with that perspective, which makes it difficult sometimes to understand others who approach life differently. Those who see the glass (and theirs is only a thimble) as half-empty, those who are innately sad or depressed or negative. Watching them, I think, “Cheer up, it’s just a matter of mind over matter!” But then, I know they would if they could.
Part of that realization is that everyone has those moments. You know, THOSE moments. Moments of insecurity, of fear, of rage against the unfairness of life. We are human, we have those moments. I’m not talking about depression here, just the occasional pity party that we all throw for ourselves. And for directors, living in a business of subjective judgment and creative expression that can fail easily, those parties can come along quite often. Each shooting day has the potential for numerous disasters, for anything less than excellence is cause for self-doubt at minimum, self-destruction at the maximum.
So human beings need a method to chase away those fears, those blues. And directors need that more than many others. (Granted, in the “Well, it isn’t brain surgery, it’s just entertainment,” school of philosophy, our troubles can seem indulgent. But ask any director, they will tell you that a director needs a thick skin, a genius brain, and a warm heart to make it through the day because our creative choices leave us open to judgment, ultimately by anyone on the planet who watches the finished product.) Given that we, by nature, are problem solvers, here are some tips for Chasing Away the Blues. And it’s not whiskey.
The first solution is GRATITUDE. Begin and end each day with it. Change the focus from what is wrong to what is right. If nothing else, be grateful for waking up and making it through another day. But really, there are so many things on top of that to be grateful for, you just have to pay attention to them. By making a list of all that warrants your gratitude, you see all that’s good in your life. Count all the tiny stuff, it doesn’t have to be something dramatic like winning the Oscar. It can be the bird song outside your window or the fact that you remembered to bring your umbrella on a rainy day. It becomes difficult to sulk or snap if you’re focused on all the reasons you can be grateful. Say thank you: to the Divine Spirit and to the divine spirit within yourself.
The second solution is HUMILITY. Know where you stand in the vast ranking of human beings. There is always someone better off than you and there is always someone worse off. No matter how much ego you have, you are not the best. And the chances are good that you are not the worst. We are all here having a human experience, trying to achieve and get along with each other… it is humbling to realize that we are all the same. No matter what differences we have with each other, what we have in common is the tie that binds: our humanity. So don’t walk on set as if you’re royalty. You may be the leader that day, but your intrinsic worth is the same as the lowest person on the crew list. Smile. Acknowledge. Compliment. We are all one. And again, that process of reaching out overcomes our blues. You can’t genuinely tell someone that their performance authentically touched you, or that the crew did a masterful job of bringing your vision to life, and remain in your fog of self-pity. You are aligning yourself with an observation that says, “I needed help, and you gave it.” You are humbly lifting someone else up.
The final solution (for today) is LOVE. I think of that sweet song, “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke, in which he sings, “… I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘How do you do?’ They’re really saying, ‘I love you.’” And he’s right, that does make for a wonderful world, a world in which love is the answer, no matter the question. There is no anger, there is no fear, there is just love to salve all wounds if we only choose to use it. You can’t be down on yourself or the world if you’re expressing love to those around you, especially those who are lending their own creative talents to your enterprise.
The thread that winds through all of these solutions to the Blues is POSITIVE THOUGHT. I know it’s hard to reach for that when you’re down; it can seem silly or useless. But try it. Reach outside yourself to be grateful for the good, to connect in your shared humanness, and project love outward. Suddenly you’ll realize that you feel good, and in helping others, you helped yourself out of the hole you found yourself in, the one you couldn’t climb out of alone. Be someone’s bright spot in a stressful day, and be full of gratitude for the goodness that returns to you. Then watch those Blues disappear, the pity party collapse, and the glass become half-full!
I can feel the cynical reader cringing, pushing away this advice as if it were either a joke or a religious fairy tale. It may feel too altruistic, too simplistic, not based in reality. “The world is screwed up, life is hard, you have to work like crazy just to survive. Drivel about gratitude, humility and love won’t solve a thing, least of all my blues. “All I can say is, try it. It can’t hurt, and it may be the answer you’ve been seeking.
@ 2019 Bethany Rooney