Any thespian talent that might exist in my family did not manifest itself in me. I can’t act on purpose. I can’t stand on a stage and convincingly portray a character other than myself.
It’s odd, that I can’t, because I think I have several of the bits and pieces necessary for one to become a decent actor. I have, both innate and studied, a decent capacity for empathy. I can imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s head, and I can usually come up with a way of viewing their words or actions as somehow logical or sensible. I have my own depths of emotion, from which I can draw as needed in order to win have an argument or to find patience in a crisis.
I can lie, of course, and spent most of my adolescence doing just that. I don’t bother, anymore, because I don’t find myself in situations that need lying to escape from and I have developed an ability for stoicism and keeping my thoughts to myself, which is a lot less work than coming up with a believable lie.
But I can’t act, on command, with a script. I just don’t have it in me, and the experience, the few times I was involved in Drama Club or the school musical, was just foreign enough to me that I don’t remotely regret that inability.
I suspect it’s because of that stoicism. That’s a skill first developed because living through long-term, untreated PTSD means living with volatile, intense emotions, doubts about one’s own ability to accurately perceive reality, worries about being hurt again by the next person to come along, and a general sense of being uncontrolled. Out of control. Dangerous.
The clear and obvious defenses against this out-of-control feeling were self-destructive behavior coupled with a tendency to minimize physical and emotional pain. A sort of “I can handle anything” assertion, even when everybody knew it was false. Practice long enough, and you can convince those around you that you’re happy, or at least not suicidal. Give it enough effort, and you won’t be seen as quite that unhinged by people that don’t know you as well. Focus on it hard enough, and you’ll fool everyone. Sometimes even yourself.
Long-term, of course, that doesn’t work. Not well, not if you want a life that feels even a little genuine and worth living. Therapy helped there, eventually – once I let it – and so did meds. And time, lots of time, and practice not fooling. It had become so habitual for me to just do whatever it was my boyfriends wanted, and to act like it was rocking my world each and every time because that felt better for their egos, that it was really difficult to learn about what I liked, myself. The phrase, “Oh, I’m fine,” rolled off my tongue so glibly that when I stopped to try and figure out how I actually was, I didn’t have the words. It took a long time before I could believe that people might want to spent time with me even if I didn’t spend all of my time trying to be or say exactly what they wanted.
So, I’m not big on acting now. It’d be nice if I could; I hear there’s some decent money in the field. But instead I have to settle for being broke and true to myself. Alas.
It’s carnival Wednesday here, “the madhouse” for lack of a better term. A bit of a deep and disjointed post for an April Fool’s Day, true, but I’m operating on ridiculously little sleep and dealing with at least three, possibly four sick kids (if Emily’s school nurse calls home again). Bear with me.