I work in theater. It’s an amazing community of people. In fact, I was drawn to this business because of the people. My best friends did the plays in high school, so I did the plays.
But, like high school, theater also comes with a certain amount of drama (and I don’t just mean the drama we get paid to do… HAH!). We spend all day together when putting up a new show. I’m currently in the fourth week of ten hour days, cooped up in a theater with the same forty people. Inevitably, we deal with the joys/fallout of new friendships, new relationships, breakups, election seasons (God help us), bomb threats in Times Square, babies being born, rivalries, nerves, lack of sleep, drinking (theater folks do a lot of that), jokes taken the wrong way, lack of space, egos, and all-around insecurity… no biggie.
Now, how do we theater people deal with all of the above? We go out and talk about the people we work with.
I’ve been a professional actor for eleven years, and at 30 years old, I made a vow that this show would be my first job where I float completely outside any and all of the drama. I’m seriously grateful to just be working (youth and ego can make you take little things like a consistent paycheck for granted… at this point in my life, I kiss my checks for so long, people leave the room to give us some privacy). I am starting to feel secure about many things in my life, so I made a promise to myself to not look at what other people have and compare. Most of all, I said I wouldn’t gossip. I don’t want MY life under a microscope, so I will offer the same privacy to my peers, whom I love.
And then I didn’t get enough sleep for a month.
My gossiping tendencies are insidious. They slip into my psyche gradually, first as a well-intentioned comment here and there, until it eventually snowballs into a mildly-judgmental obsession. I am very good at analyzing people (hence this whole writing thing), and I am fluent in what I like to call, “psycho babble.” Basically, I enjoy waxing poetic on people and their behaviors, despite my lack of professional credentials to do so… and despite the fact that no one has asked me to do this. These “therapy” sessions without the patient present quickly devolve into straight up gossip. Plus, my limited expertise is exhausted after one bottle of wine, but, like a true entertainer, I like to keep the show going. This is when it gets really dangerous and can even venture into mean.
Talking about people’s private (and not-so-private lives, at least in theater) makes it difficult to really be a friend. Have you ever smiled in someone’s face after you were just talking about them? Try it sometime (please don’t try it); you’ll feel like a monster.
Moreover, I compare myself to the people who have captured my attention and energy, but as the town loud mouth, I usually don’t like what I see. I’m already insecure and often feel like an outsider (it’s in my head, I know), but when I add fuel to my alienation fire, I spiral.
Which is exactly what happened a few nights ago. I actually woke up, in the middle of the night, having an anxiety attack/shame spiral. I had come to the realization, in my sleep, that I had done all the horrible, gossipy things I had set out to avoid. The shame and guilt felt like it was swallowing me up. I want to be a good friend, a beam of light, and I was neither.
My boyfriend calmed me down and I was able to sleep off my slight mania. I awoke the next morning feeling as though I had really learned the source of a great deal of the anxiety I carry around each day. I renewed my anti-gossip vows, and now I’m sticking to them. The world gives us enough reasons to criticize ourselves; I refuse to throw my own reasons into the mix anymore, if I can help it.
It has only been a few days since my late night epiphany, and so far, so good! I’m feeling better, more genuine. Also, I’ve realized that living my life is much more interesting than sitting around, talking about other people’s lives. It’s gonna take a bit of time to retrain these muscles, but for now, I’m keeping other people’s names out of my mouth, which leaves a lot more room in there for wine. And laughter. And building friendships I feel worthy of.
Now, in the immortal words of Linda Richmond on Saturday Night Live, “talk amongst yourselves.”
Written By: Sydney Morton
Originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Sydney is a fervent lover of yoga and all things health and wellness. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Sydney moved to New York City and began her career as a professional actor in multiple Broadway shows, film, and TV, all while maintaining a blog and writing/directing/producing online video content. After years of keeping so many balls in the air, Sydney actively sought out yoga, nutrition, and self-care as a way to maintain balance. She went on to combine her love of sharing healthy lifestyle choices, and empowering women, by becoming an Independent Consultant for an all-natural skincare and nutrition company, Arbonne International. Sydney loves nothing more than to collaborate and motivate her fellow female yogis, and HappygirlYoga is the perfect community to do just that!