AM I NORMA DESMOND?

Am I Norma DesmondI watched Sunset Boulevard last night. It was horrifying. Not, perhaps, for the reasons other people would find horrifying. For me, it was learning that nutty Norma Desmond, living like Dickens’ Miss Haversham was only 50 years old. That’s right. Fifty. Bill Holden threw that number at her like a death sentence. He thought she was an old hag. My shoulders sank. Instead of saying to her, “You’re only 50 years old, for God’s sakes, Norma. You’ve got tons of money. Get out and have some fun!” Nope. No chance for that. In Bill Holden’s eyes, and dare I say, the world’s, Norma was done, used up, finished, beyond any chance of having a life or being loved except by her creepy, sinister German butler.

I thought, Wow, I’m so many years older than Norma. Granted she was probably certifiably crazy, but am I even crazier trying to create a new life at my age? Sometimes the answer veers toward, “Yes,” especially after spending a day like yesterday looking at dreary homes for sale in my price range in Sarasota, and then making the unfortunate choice of watching Sunset Boulevard at night.

Aside from my personal reactions, it’s a great movie, so I continued to watch. Gloria Swanson, if you took away the weird makeup and over-the-top distended eyeball rolling, looked really good. And her imitation of Charlie Chaplin is terrific.

Many years ago, I happened to sit at a table next to her in Spoleto, Italy. I was surprised at how lovely she was in person. After that, I read her autobiography, Swanson on Swanson, which is one of the best autobiographies I have read. So, Gloria and I go way back. But in her iconic role, she damned me and my life to the dustbin. Am I Norma Desmond minus her money, butler, and toy boy Bill Holden?

No—in the light of this gray day, Norma wanted her old life back. I don’t. I had some wonderful experiences as an actress, but I don’t want to play Alzheimer patients. I want to create something new. I’d love to have all my beloved family, friends, and pets alive again, but that is not going to happen. So, I’m ready let go. I think trying to hang onto or recreate the past is what plunged Norma into the Land of Haversham. But, letting go means standing in emptiness, (see p.112 in the new edition of The Four Principles: Applying the Four Keys of Authentic Acting to Life). Emptiness can be scary as hell because it demands a big dose of trust. So many times one wants to hang onto what doesn’t work rather than walk into that big empty space of not knowing what to do, or where to go. or how to get what one really wants.

So, even if I am crazy, I’m going to see if I can create a new life. It’s a challenge and an adventure. Here I go.

I’m ready for my close up, God.

This blog addresses the principle of Commitment.

A BIG QUESTION

question_markCan I, a 77 year-old single woman with almost no family, create a whole new life?

It’s a big question that has been coming up since my acting career faded away. Four years ago, after the death of my sister, I drove around the US in a camper van for three months trying to revive myself. It worked. During the trip I sometimes wondered, “Would I like to live here? Or here? Or here?” The answer was pretty much “Nope.” But it was a wonderful adventure.

Enlivened, I came home and rebooted my life without my former connection to my acting career in New York City. But each cold winter became more unbearable to me and more friends and family died. So last winter, I began seriously exploring warmer climes to relocate. I traveled around much of Florida and even went to Merida, Mexico. I felt like Goldilocks hopping in and out of beds. Nothing seemed right for me: The Keys were too low key for me, Miami and environs too big. So I turned to central Florida. The Villages seemed too much like an adult Disneyword, Mt. Dora, too small. I loved Winter Park, but it was, frankly, too expensive and I wanted to be closer to the beach. So, this December, having heard Sarasota had a lot of theater and culture, not to mention the beach, I decided to try it out. Within days, it felt right to me.

I did not know one person there. But one of the great lessons I learned in my trip around the US was: There are good people everywhere. And, indeed, through chance encounters at restaurants and even on the street, I am on my way to creating a circle of friends. One woman I met took me with her to feed the homeless on Christmas Day. I plan to do that again next year wherever I am. Two people I chatted up at a restaurant happen to be very connected in the theater. They have already introduced me to several people who are also active in theater in Sarasota. And talk about good people! Another woman, JoAnn, who I had met at the theater and for lunch days later, turned out to be a kind of angel. When I fled my rental because of a nutty, rather scary landlady, JoAnn gave me her house to stay in while she was in California! Such generosity I won’t ever forget. (The landlady, by the way, was the exception that proves the rule about good people everywhere.)

So today, when I ask, “Can I, a 77 year-old single woman with almost no family, create a whole new life?” It may take some courage and a little craziness, but my answer is a resounding YES, I CAN!  And I’m excited about the prospect!

This blog has to do with Commitment. As I say in my Creative Explosion workshops, “A really good commitment may look a little crazy.”