Rewind time to...mid-March 2020 - what were you doing? I’d won a Best Supporting Actress award for the film "Wuthering Heights" at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema in California. Joyfully, I accepted the award and shared a speech for artistic recognition with gracious accolades for my film team, family, and friends. For more than a decade I've championed my film acting heroine’s journey; the acknowledgement was well-earned for artistry and persevering.
When the hoopla of winning an award dies down, you're left with you and your trophy… then what? On the heels of this award win was fast escalating news about our entire world being in epic trouble. With the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 quickly becoming a global pandemic, any award winning honeymoon heroine feels got dumped quickly as the plane wheels squealed to a halt on the airport runway at home. I charged off to the grocery market to purchase some essential home items as Shelter in Place notices went up around the world.
Toilet paper was nowhere to be found, along with many necessities, due to mass panic purchasing by hordes of people who, like me, were terrified about the effects of a worldwide crisis. I'd gone from a glowing award winning actress … to the stark reality I needed to hunker down at home for an unknown amount of time without some real basic necessities. I’d hoped to have a celebration with friends and family. Instead, being considered essential personnel at my regular job, I masked up and collected every bottle of hand sanitizer at home to arm myself with light sabers of cleaners against these microscopic health invaders. Like a lost cork in the ocean and with dinner plate sized eyes of fear, I bobbed up and out between work and home stepping outside of that circuit for needed supplies and sanity giving walks close to home.
No one could predict how the coming days, weeks, or months were going to go. I sensibly set the award aside. I assisted a friend with videos for her small yoga business to go online, helped handle a serious family crisis, dropped supplies to a couple of people that were sick, and quickly re-sorted life to prioritize only basic needs. With my head spinning out for some sense of safety, I revisited a long list of at home chores.
Chasing unsanctioned activities of dust bunnies in long forgotten room corners, decluttering closets, deep cleaning cupboards, garage, and anything I could get my hands on combated full body panic and my apocalyptic imagination. As I’d pass my award, I'd glance at it wondering how to... or even should I, share more than a Facebook post about this awesome achievement. Other times as I passed it, I'd gush happy exhilaration and then the air would be sucker punched out of me by my army general survival brain hoarsely barking orders in my head where my focus should be so we could be ready for anything.
I felt like a human cannonball launched forcefully into a girdle of reality one size too small making me reckon with many parts of myself. There was no way out but to deal with thoughts and feelings squeezing in on me about many things. Besides the pandemic and becoming ready for what I feared was total world collapse, I kept thinking about my accomplishment too and felt a sad sinking feeling I wasn’t doing right by myself. What does winning an award for my artistic endeavors mean? And even more, does it mean anything to receive an acting award in a pandemic? If so, what?
The safe thing was let it sit on the shelf and be quiet but it wouldn't. It was vibrating with wild tribal delightful energy.
As I shoved this glorious award win down inside myself, an unrelenting primal drumbeat began pounding at my head. I hunkered down in a self-dug foxhole in my mind guarding my award winning feeling like a secret crush so no one could expose and shame me for having that feeling. I felt like covering it up like a wart I had on my finger in 5th grade. An award is not a wart, but it felt like one to me since winning it occurred in a time where lives & global safety were at stake.
I Googled for guidance on how to handle winning and found sports and lottery win references. Some articles had terse cautionary information about not making it your identity; others had very mixed feeling messages. I found articles about success mindset, psychology of a winner, and a process to get to a win but nothing about integration of the energy and feelings that come .after. winning... and nothing about how to do that in a pandemic. How do you hold onto a winning feeling so it becomes part of your inner landscape of words in a healthy, progressive, thoughtful way and more importantly, why? In asking people, I got a few decent bite sized ideas or a return of surprised words I was struggling with this.
Hoping for insight, I flipped the subject over and tried a different approach. I Googled coming in next to or in last place or not placing at all (losing); there was plenty to read but nothing felt good in my gut. I’ve flopped at things and been near to or in last place many times… being in next-to-last or in absolute last place, remaining unnoticed, and even giving away credit for my work were self-dismissive mindsets I’d lived by. I’d convinced myself being "less than" was the way to be. I started experiencing piercing headaches as the metal clanking and pressure of battling words in my mind made me aware of how hard I was keeping that mindset part of my identity. These warring thoughts also gave me the kind of threatening juicy noisy stomach cramps you dread. Considering the shortage of toilet paper in the world, that was not good.
As the sniping of the nasty COVID-19 virus in the world worsened, my dark sense of humor sent the Darth Vader Imperial March theme music thundering through my head leaving me to wonder if there was hope anywhere in any of this. My mind registered the whisper of a 911 energy pinging alarm sound inside myself to pay attention… This is important. My heart kept telling me owning yourself no matter what's going on is also important as it plants purposeful, helpful seeds in my life now and for the future. With barely scraping by exhaustion from heavy mental and emotional loads and seeking answers along with holding the fort down at home, I finally sent myself into the sweet arms of Mother Nature. I needed to find some sort of center, get my face .out. of the news, and stop cleaning every God blessed thing in sight.
In getting to my favorite mountain again and taking a long time to observe the weather moving in a surprising realization wiggled into my awareness like a puppy dog’s nose nuzzling into your arm when you’re busy and it wants to play with you. Because of the pandemic, I was at a complete stop from my usual high speed way of doing life. I was able to see and feel my ugly stitched together poor self-concept plus bad quality self-talk; I felt it vividly in my body, heart, and head. No clear answers came through on what to do or what to think though.
The situation around the world grew more darkly grave with the horror of George Floyd’s death escalating and unleashing civil unrest that spread globally. What I thought was important about myself evaporated out of my awareness as this tragedy wrecked us everywhere and called us to action; the world needed all of us.
With resolute refocused energy I opened up my heart more and rolled up my sleeves for a long game as what became clear was that our "normal" world was collapsing. I got active for a culture of people that’s endured centuries of abuse by marching in Black Lives Matter, deepened my understanding, amplified voices, held space for and had vulnerable conversations. I was on a couple dozen Zoom introductions as Hollywood’s barriers came crashing down. I donated to the Actor’s Fund, Breonna Taylor’s justice, and stayed the course with regular commitments. I completed a digital course "Book More TV" learning to pivot into digital auditions in a rapidly changing film industry. I helped with details of a family member’s move in the middle of last year and took care of my brother before, during, and after surgery. At times, I was ugly crying, laughing, dealing with holy terror anxiety, laying on the floor at several points buried in blankets, I stepped-up care of my mental, physical, and emotional health and helped friends and family with the same. I headed up a huge office move at my day job as co-workers were handling deep crises. I turned a small area in my garage into a performance space to give my inner artist a gym and home, read books, wrote poetry, completed several classes in the Masterclass Online series, increased my photography skills taking nature pictures, filmed and edited a one-minute short film, focused on deepening my craft of acting & mindset, kept up with and supported my films in post-production, submitted five digital auditions, filmed on a closed set for a virtual play festival, remained a solid constant at work, patronized local businesses to support my community, snowboarded, Zoomed birthdays and a couple of auditions, was accepted and shared talent as a guest artist at my local college, began activist emailing, grieved several deaths with dear friends and so many other things...
Back to time now… mid-March 2021. The world’s emerging slowly to greet each other in person and in activities. We're making it. Our lives will never be like they were (HUGE understatement). I’ve seen whole hearted compassion grow with awareness of each other’s wounds where badges of busyness and flags of indifference were once proudly flown high. Beauty’s begun returning to our relating to each other along with the appreciation of physical presence of others. Frantic life paces turned up-side-down are registering more gratitude. For me, I’ve had some clear space now to bring into more focus the last twelve months.
When your name's called for something you’d only hoped for, I experienced a full body deep moving realization I’d done something powerful. All eyes were on me. Pretending not to see, witness, and validate your incredible talent(s) or even hide from it, no matter what rages on in the world, damages yourself and others by keeping your inner narrative in a powerless state rather than an empowered one.
In that special moment of achievement, I accepted the incredible synergy of grace wrapping around me with people witnessing me... imparting joy and faith to all of us to stay in the game! The award represented physical evidence of self-empowerment I hadn’t considered up until this point or given myself credit for my artistic work. There’s celebration and a responsibility to such a win.
Winning isn’t a narrative naturally imparted to a lot of us. Losing seems to be the narrative we absorb from the outside in and somehow that narrative has a ready automatic string of disempowered words from fouled up meanings we’ve taken from events and people in life. Winning does not have qualifying statements in it. It celebrates fully and completely the soul place the achievement comes from and the robust discipline needed to create it, accept, and receive it. I'm humbled and grateful for some dear close-up people in my life that offered a solid unified uplifted voice in support of me whilst I figured this out. We made moves every day to handle whatever microscopic to epic sized obstacles life hurled at us together and together we are collectively creating better narratives inside ourselves and outside ourselves.
Without being aware, I’d taken the empowered feeling, decided what winning meant to me, acted on it, and put it to work in life this past year. Because of the huge crises in the world at large and in my life, I heard loud and clear an internal microphone check. That deep listening and hearing that inner fire alarm bell gave me a gift of recognizing the most life-giving line of conversation can be affected in yourself… which blesses you into your growth and inspires you AND others into their empowerment too.
I’m consciously giving winning meaning now. Winning means the heroine isn’t away at distant places winning awards or conquering dragons - but bravely stepping up to ownership of a line of choices she makes to deal with and share her dark and light and talents right where she is. Where your light is - is your heart. your values, your work ethic, where you can be seen in all your glory. Where your dark is - is what makes you real, human, gritty, passionate, and whole. Bringing the two parts together, stopping the warring self-talk and adopting better words and meanings to yourself, allows a bigness of space inside yourself for the brilliant use of your talent and gives you self-acceptance.
I give lavish public and private praise and gratitude to everyone I work with and to those who support me. However, I wasn’t able or willing to take praise and gratitude inside myself for my accomplishments as I misjudged my ambitions as bad. At times, I’ve felt embarrassed to shine my light about my talents. Other times, I felt because I am a woman, I shouldn’t have or desire warm accolades, recognition, and credit for what I’ve done. Now I can choose to believe differently and tell myself a story to support these better beliefs. I am important in my journey and deserve recognition and credit! Winning, along with praise and accolades for it, won’t become part of my identity but rather winning the best supporting actress award is becoming a valuable part of my heroine’s journey of honoring my dedication to the artistic craft as I kept showing up for myself, for the film, and for my castmates.
Winning the award is evidence I showed up excellently for myself + my film mates. Perhaps this is covered somewhere in detail, but thankfully, it wasn't anywhere I could find outside myself no matter what I Googled or who I asked. The humbling grace of quarantining, Shelter in Place, and also helping others around me during this pandemic made me go to the one place I kept skipping over for guidance, myself.
Can you survive winning? Hells yes! You are meant to thrive with it. Prepare yourself to roll into a better inner narrative that’ll light the way into your future and join me in up-leveling beliefs about yourself to evolve with it! Our BEST hope is inside each of us changing our self-concept and self-narrative to a better one that imprints clearly empowered sureness of energy and language that lets us know: I can do this and I am important in this journey!
Finally, a year later I feel I can say with much love and gushing with my whole heart, and my eyes full of hot sloppy happy tears… (cue opening music for Star Wars music in my head since I love it so much!)
Dad, mom, family, and friends, I won the Best Supporting Actress Award.
I .am. an award winning actress!
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As I finished this today, my heart breaks all over again - there's more work to do. The world needs our open mind, heart, activism, and your absolute best self. God bless and peace be with the hearts and families in Atlanta, GA. from the string of shootings at Asian businesses.
In reviewing this March 17, 2022, these words couldn't be more true. You stepping into an empowered narrative inside yourself to share your talented value is what is going to light up the world in amazing ways. You lead by example. The world needs art; it needs creativity. It needs our bravery in connecting to God, our goodness, talents, and love and to boldly express that in the universe through being in our best humanity.
Blog by Mary Riitano...
I'm a Montana actress on a journey sharing my heart and growth through blogging, stories, and poetry, I have faith you'll find empowerment and inspiration to create like a champion in your own life!
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