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Reaping What You Sow

Well, the day has come and gone... It was only three days ago, but it was a big one. The first day of spring. Spring. Spring! SPRING!!!!!!!! Finally, we can throw off the heavy duty sweaters, the parkas, the warm boots, and scarves and hats and gloves. We can wear shorts, lightweight sweaters, floral/colorful dresses, capris, sandals, loafers, and be free in the warm weather again. We can see and smell the flowers in our neighborhoods growing at alarming rates in our lawns and on trees. We can finally stay out past 5:00 p.m. because there's still daylight! We can enjoy all of the things we've missed during the colder months - long walks, picnics, boating, sunbathing, road trips, and festivals. Spring. Spring! SPRING!!!!!!!! (For all of you allergy sufferers out there, you have my sympathies! I know what it's like!) Do you know what this means? It's a new season... Which means it's time to look ahead, and also look back. The first few months of the year were the chance to hit the ground running as we awaited a fresh start after the previous year, and as the seasons change (as they often do meteorologically speaking), we get to look forward to the changes in temperature and flora & fauna. And we may even get encounters with creepy crawlies (yikes!). But more often than not, we often look forward to the reaping the fruits of our labor from the first quarter of the year, and those fruits look different for each of us. Especially if we've been working hard at our labor to get those fruits harvested. Some cornucopia collections take a little bit longer to manifest than others, and we often feel disappointed or even ready to give up if they're not ready for harvesting. And it's even harder when we've been working hard in our gardens and nothing seems to go right for the crops and flowers. No matter what method, gardening technique, prayers, rituals, or ideas you try to get things growing, it doesn't go the way you planned due to unexpected storms or droughts that come into your life that sends things further away from the path you've had placed for yourself. It can make you even wonder if this garden is even worth harvesting if no fruits or vegetables are growing. It's easy to get caught up in scarcity and comparison of other people's gardens when it seems like you have nothing to offer to the world. Maybe sometimes the answer to growing your garden to the best of its ability, even in the scarcity mindset and envy of other's gardens is right in front of you, but you choose not to listen to make it grow and flourish beyond the time of growth and renewal. But I learned something about the importance of tending to your gardens, and even how a bit of pruning and reorganizing can make a big difference. And how time can be the best factor in making sure your garden not only survives, but thrives. The best part about this week's blog? Even if you're in the midst of pruning and making room for growth in your garden, it can always turn into something beautiful. Like this...

Or this...

Or even this.

It's no secret that we enjoy the warmth of spring and summer outside, and the warmth inside from the colder months of fall and winter. And no matter what the season, we always appreciate the sunshine to brighten our day. But if it's been a dry time, the rains are a welcome sight for the parched ground and trees and flowers who've been longing for water for quite some time. Not to mention the help douse wildfires that are popping up due to the dryness for a bit. And then there's the breeze - warm, gentle winds can be a welcome sight when we're out walking around the neighborhood or doing some jogging. No winds during the summer months can be downright brutal, and the icy, chilly winds in the cooler months can cut right through us and send shivers up and down our spines. Weather has a way to impact our moods, no matter what season it is. Some of us tend to be adventurous during the warmer months, while being more reserved and closer to home during the cooler months. Or it could be the other way around. Or better yet, some are adventurous all year round! When it's sunny, we find our days to be a bit more upbeat and hopeful as opposed to a cloudy day when it's gloomy and grey. We can be a bit sad when it's raining because our plans are ruined, or excited when it snows for the first time because it means snow angels, building snow people, ice skating, and snowball fights. (Or you can be sad about the snow because it means digging out the car from the large pile of snow, the cold, or even just being stuck inside with nothing to do.) Hmm... I just had an interesting thought. Do you think that maybe we could be plants? Think about it: we thrive in the sunshine, warm weather. (Or cold weather, sometimes.) The rain allows us to slow down and be refreshed. Snow encourages us to stay inside to rest and relax for the warmer months. Polar opposites cause us to be a bit confused with what is warm, what is cold, which way is up, which way is down, what's yes, what's no... you get the idea. But here's the thing: It's not just the weather that affects how we grow and thrive in our respective environments. It's what we're exposed to as human beings on a regular basis that makes just as much of a difference on how we grow... And how we share our seeds with others that makes our garden grow. This week marks eight weeks since my laparoscopy, and I've been doing a lot of self-care and recuperation in order to get back to as close to normal as possible. That meant lots of days sleeping in, eating a nutritious breakfast, walks outside in the fresh air and sunshine (and sometimes clouds), staying away from certain foods, drinking plenty of water, getting in my fruits and veggies, and slowly gaining my strength back through exercise. But it's not just my physical health that's getting some self-care and recovery. It's also my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It's no secret that 2023 was challenge for me, both personally and professionally. And while I have big hopes and dreams for this year, I also knew that I couldn't keep on thinking the same ways or having the same habits carry me into the rest of 2024. Things like resentment, bitterness, jealousy, impatience, and envy ruling my life. Things like blaming outside circumstances for my career not going my way instead of taking ownership of my own actions and lack of action. Things like basing my career through other's casting announcements, award nominations and wins, and travels abroad. Things like not trusting God and giving him the power and glory, even in my struggles. Things like not seeing the problems and issues before my very eyes, and avoiding them with being distracted so as not to look weak and foolish. Things like getting into my head so much that I don't look outward and see the world with my own eyes, no matter how unfair it is. Well, yours truly has been feeding a lot of bad seeds into her garden lately, and things needed to change, and stat. So, what does one do when she realizes that her garden needs a bit of spring cleaning and pruning? Well, for starters, I go to Scripture. But not just reading the passages that cry out to God (but those are valuable to have) out of pain and frustration. This time, I went to the ones that teach me patience, how to keep going when I'm on the verge of giving up, and how all things will work together for my good through the grace of God. And as I went about my days praying and reading Scripture, I started to notice something. The hard truths about myself, my sins, were coming to light, and I had to acknowledge that I was not perfect and I was not all together and I needed to let go of these past shrubs and roots that I had implanted in my mind. I had to see that I'm greatly impatient due to my high expectations set so high because of my fear of failure and letting others down. I had to see that I should've looked before I leaped, and that I needed to slow down. I had to realize that I was so in my head I forget to see the blessings and teachings that are on the outside that my insides were longing for. I had to see that prayers and reaching out to others just to get what I want is not the way to go, and that I had to do the work. I had to see that I am truly worthy, enough, and valuable to this world because of my existence and the world is a better place because of it. I had to see that my health matters, and the things I was holding onto for so long needed to be let go in order to move forward. I had to see that I needed to be extra kind, extra patient, and extra compassionate to myself since I am still recovering and getting back to normal, or even my old patterns, wasn't going to happen right away. (Not that I wanted to get back into my old mental and emotional patterns anyway.) I had to see that being in prayer and reflection can do the greatest wonders for the weary soul and give me the strength to keep going. So far, spending time in the Word and praying - sometimes at work, even - has done some amazing things to keep my day from going overboard and even look at life differently. It's a nice daily ritual that I've implemented to help me stay grounded and have hope and faith in a higher power. And in a way, it could help me out with my day-to-day activities without so much stress... or fear. Much of what I've been holding onto for so long is starting to slip away from me, hopefully for good. It's even inspired me to do something I haven't done much of lately... Learn more about the craft. The business side of it, that is. But not in the way that you think. I had taken a three-day workshop to "spark" some changes in my career, and for the very first day, I learned something profound about being an actor. You see, as actors we want to be able to book roles and get our foot in the door by meeting the right people. When there's an event, like an industry night or meet & greet, we see someone (i.e. casting director), we want to work with, and we immediately go up to them, say hi, start a conversation, and do everything we can to form a connection so they they can like us and remember us for future projects. There's just one problem with that: It makes the casting directors, directors, industry leaders, and more feel uncomfortable. It makes them look like as if they're prey, and us actors are the hunters. Yup, you read that right. Us actors are the hunters looking for prey just so we can work consistently and not grow desperate when the jobs aren't coming. And believe me when I say this, we don't mean to be hunters. We just want to work. We'll take any job just so we won't go crazy or go to the insane asylum without doing what we love! But I discovered another way to connect with casting directors and industry professionals. And it involves a garden. Think about it:

We plant the seeds in our garden - introducing ourselves, but not being desperate for a job. Rather, we get to know them in a different way. We get to see casting directors, directors, and industry leaders as PEOPLE. We send emails congratulating them on the success of a show or being in a performance, we tell them how much we enjoy their content on social media or how inspiring it is to us, and we even send them a message saying that we've been thinking about them and hope they are doing well. Or even just offering to help them with connecting them with actors they know for a project. And it's all doing it without expecting anything in return. No auditions. No callbacks. No role offers. None of that. We just get to be ourselves, and be kind and thoughtful to those in the industry because who doesn't love a nice email from a contact, acquaintance, or someone they know on any given day that doesn't involve the business? I personally think that is a breath of fresh air. How about you? And the more we plant those seeds of kindness, the more those seeds grow from like, to love, to know. That's the best way to tend this garden in the industry. I mean, take it from me. I sent an email to a casting director I know and see at my part-time job congratulating her on a successful run of a show and for performing as the understudy several times. She appreciated it very much! I sent in two checking in messages to contacts I know, and now we're planning coffee dates to catch up on things and possibly reconnect. I saw a creator I worked with on several readings one day, and we chatted about things. She told me she would send my headshot and resume over to her contacts without even asking me. And the root of being kind and thoughtful to them? It's showing up everyday to rehearsals and performances prepared, ready to learn, and kind & respectful to others. It's showing gratitude for the notes in rehearsals, and for giving them the opportunity to be in the show, let alone, audition & be called back. It's asking questions and implementing the tools in rehearsals to your highest level in performance after performance. That's how you tend your garden. And it's more than that. Tending your garden means surrounding yourself - body, mind, heart, and soul with the things and people who serve you well. If you're going about your days listening and watching the news, chances are your garden may not grow or flourish with positivity. If you are hanging out with people who are toxic, manipulative, and downright cruel to you, your garden will not grow. It may even get choked up by the thorns and perish. If you're not allowing yourself to get the up and support needed to heal and strengthen your mental and emotional health, there's bound to be a lot of weeds in your garden that will oversaturate your mind and heart to the point where you don't know what's true anymore. Maybe it's time to distance yourself from the people, things, and even current events that are driving your garden to become an untamed jungle. Let's face it - it's not doing you any good and it's stunting your growth. Why let it continue that way? Perhaps it's fear? Fear of what might happen if you try something new in your gardening techniques, like leaving the people, things, and ideas that no longer serve you for better and newer seeds that allow you to grow and flourish. Failure. (Or people wanting to see you fail.) Abandonment. Resistance. Hopelessness. Stagnancy. Grief. It can happen to any of us when we tend to our gardens, even pruning them or replanting things every now and then. Sometimes we may not even get the message that's right in front of us that we have to move forward for the sake of our health and wellbeing because of our stubbornness or even avoiding the problem in the belief that it might go away on its own. But like it or not, we need to take care of our gardens... 'Cause if we don't, our gardens will force us to take of it. And sometimes, in the worst way possible. (It's no secret that this week's post may come at a timely or untimely moment for you. No matter what you're going through, I hope these words bring some form of encouragement to you. Just remember that these are my thoughts and observations, and you are welcome to disagree with me on anything I say on this or previous posts. What I won't tolerate is any hate speech, offensive language, or disrespect towards one another. If you can't even do a simple thing as that, I will block you.)

For someone like me who's been at this crazy career called acting for eight years, it's easy to get discouraged when the seeds you plant don't yield the fruits that you want right away. Especially if you've been waiting for them for quite some time. But a fellow actor put it this way: Each of the things we grow in our garden takes time. Think about it: Bananas can take anywhere from three weeks to six months to grow. Grapes take up to three years to bear fruit. Apple trees take eight to ten years to grow from a seed. And tulips need to be planted in the fall so that they can grow in the springtime. So, yeah, it takes time for the things we enjoy to grow and flourish, and it also takes a lot of love and tending and care to make sure they do. Shouldn't that be the same for our lives? Our careers? Our mental and emotional wellbeing? I know we have places to be, things to do, and people to meet. And we don't like to be kept waiting. But wouldn't you feel better knowing that once you planted the seeds, and checked back in every now and then with water, fertilizer, sunshine, and a gentle breeze from time to time, it will grow? The trick is not to constantly watch that seed grow. "A watched cauldron never bubbles." The same should apply to our gardens. We can't expect things to grow and flourish if we are nitpicky and impatient and watching it's every move every second we get. It's the same thing with our lives. No matter how hard it is, we can't constantly critique or beat ourselves up for every mistake we make, or how something didn't work out because we thought we could've done more. We take responsibility for our actions and hold ourselves accountable for the times we've fallen short, yes. But we need to trust, believe, and give the seeds we plant the time to grow and flourish. And if we have to think of new methods and ways to have our fruits of labor grow, even do some pruning and picking out the weeds, that's okay! It's our garden, and we have a responsibility to make sure it's the most beautiful the world has ever seen. It may just inspire others to look after their gardens, and make it beautiful, too. Who wants to see a garden that's untamed and not growing? But even then, there's a beauty in the weeds and the untouched plants. Just don't let it grow crazily or it will cloud your mind and heart. And remember, don't give up! The little seeds that you plant today will make a big difference in the future. And it may be the most beautiful thing you've ever grown. Give it sunshine, water, a gentle breeze, a touch of faith, perseverance, encouragement, and whole lot of love! And don't be afraid to do some pruning to keep your body, mind, heart, and soul free from the weeds. Your garden matters. So do you. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

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