Within hours of my writing this, the hubs and I are flying to Salt Lake City.

The SLC airport is where we first met in person nearly 18 years ago. We had started an online flirtation long before websites or apps existed to connect people this way. We met through my writing — seems my writing might be the cornerstone to every great relationship in my life.

Keith had read my writing online, reached out to ask some “I think I want to be an actor” type questions, also mentioned he could see the layers on which I was writing… and when he specifically laid out a tactic I was using to make someone feel really special while schooling them without them even seeing my edge, I knew I’d been seen.

After two months of flirtation that escalated pretty quickly, we decided to meet IRL. See if this thing we were both actively trying NOT to feel might be real.

So, we’re doing a lot of giggling about how we’re returning to the scene of the crime, as it were. 😉 The place where we first laid eyes on each other in the flesh, as he deplaned after flying in from Michigan. There I am, at his gate hours after my flight from LA had arrived, shaking my head at myself wondering what my mother (who had died just months before) would think if she knew I’d flown to another state to meet a stranger I’d connected with on the internet.

“I sent him to you,” I felt her say, as I looked out at the glorious mountains of Utah.

And while Keith and I have definitely had our struggles in 18 years together, we’ve also proven to ourselves, to each other, and to the world over and over again that, in fact, we were meant to be together. We’re so much stronger together than either of us is on our own. And together we’ve built something pretty spectacular. Not just our relationship, but this Self-Management for Actors empire.

Sure, I started writing for actors a couple o’ years before Keith and I met, but that was a side hustle for my acting career. It was no different than coding online shopping carts, tutoring kids after school, or teaching improv comedy traffic school. Writing for actors was a jobby-job.

Until it became my life’s work.

You can thank Keith for that. He’s the one who said, “You know, I think what you’ve got here is a BOOK,” about this three-ring binder I had, filled with all my best-ever responses to questions actors had emailed in via my column week after week. I was just being a good hoarder of some of my best writing! Using the binder to reference my own words — and the words of all the casting directors I’d been interviewing — to answer yet another question another actor would email over every day.

I scoffed at the idea of the “common sense” in Self-Management for Actors being a book. Keith asked me to trust him. It wouldn’t be the first time, nor the last. And as much as I fought trusting anyone in life, Keith’s persistence reminds me daily that trusting others is not a horrible thing. In fact, it can be magical.

My guardedness was my struggle.

Well, it was ONE of my struggles. We had a lot of those early on. And as we’ve been prepping for this trip back to the city where we confirmed we had, in fact, fallen in love via emails and phone calls in the spring of 2001, I’ve had a whole lot of nostalgia for those early days in our partnership.

There was So. Much. Struggle.

Could we do this? Would we be able to make rent? Could we be so bold as to work for ourselves — no matter how much pressure we were getting from EVERYONE around us to “get a real job”?

When we weren’t struggling, we were scrapping. There was always this fear of “What if this doesn’t work?” with each new thing we would try. Is this book actually a thing? Could this book be curriculum? Could we get it into schools? Could we teach its methods? Could we tour the world helping artists become more empowered and joy-filled along their creative journeys?

So. Much. Struggle.

And I realize today that all that energy has to go somewhere. There were YEARS of always having struggles, reasons to scrap, the need to band together to push against popular opinion about what’s possible, FEAR. And when suddenly it all works and it all works long enough that it’s not just a fluke but a run of success that builds an empire?

Then what?

That energy has to go somewhere.

This is why so many relationships end when success comes along, whether the success is one person’s or both of ’em at once. And it’s not just romantic partnerships I’m talking about here. Success can cost us our besties! Our relatives! Those ride-or-die collaborators we used to love shooting shit with. All of that is in jeopardy when we succeed.

No wonder we spend so much time backing away from success.

Success is change and change is a threat.

So, as Keith and I head off from the beach to the snow (SNOW!), I’m taking a very public moment here to be so grateful that we’ve embraced the change that we’ve been building toward all these years.

No, it hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve mindfully negotiated each of the twists in the road, always making our relationship’s health a priority — even when we, individually, may not have been our healthiest selves.

As we explore where the energy of all that struggle, all that scrapping, all that fear has gone, we’re really enjoying the process of discovery that comes from this new stage of our lives.

I’ll ask that you begin to take notice of the pockets of energy in your life and pay attention to which emotions and experiences are getting much of the airtime. If you’re not preparing for a time when what you currently struggle through may become EASY, success may be too jarring to “stick” in your life. If success has ever bounced out of your life already, there’s a good chance you weren’t laying the groundwork for it to hang around.

Creating that fertile ground is a part of the work we need to do at every stage of our creative journey. Knowing it won’t always be hard helps make that work a joy to do. But to expect that when there’s no struggle someday it’ll all just feel like one big exhale is to ignore the reality of what SPACE such focus occupies… and what happens when there’s suddenly a vacuum in any area of our lives.

What are you doing today to plan for reallocating energy that may currently be occupied in a state of struggle? What prep work can you begin to do today, so when the struggle is less of a presence, you’re not suddenly sitting on a ticking timebomb of stored energy that will have the potential to reveal itself in all sorts of unpleasant ways?

Pop your musings on all this in the comments just below. 🙂 I’d love to celebrate your work to get out ahead of any upper-limit problems before they show up at the worst possible time!

Actors of LA! If you’ve been wanting to work with us in-person, now’s your chance! There’s still room in our one-day intensive (with focus on your most castable type and brand, targeting and marketing, and of course pitching like a pro) and you can snag your spot here! Homework goes out next week, so don’t delay!

I’ll try to share some loveliness from Utah in my Instagram stories… but you’ll understand if my focus is mostly elsewhere while on this trip. 😉

Much love,

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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9 Comments

  1. Avatar Sean Frost April 9, 2019 at 6:05 am

    I don’t really have much idea. Suggestions welcome. I do know I tend to shy away from opportunity and success, likely because it is change. And then get frustrated at my lack of more success. Which of course makes TONNES of sense. 🤪. One thing that has helped is knowing that life is one challenge, one test, one difficulty after another. There is always something. There is also a lot of fun, but if we want to be our best selves, we are presented with one challenge after another, if for no other reason than to grow. We don’t get to that final level until the end. So we have to be in that sort of state of being relaxed but ready. Once we realize that and that there will likely be no extended time of ease and being challenge free, we can at least be ready. Better than to be caught napping.

    Reply
  2. Avatar Catherine Ryan April 9, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Synchronicity abounds. I have been *struggling* with just allowing myself to be in between the bouts of PRODUCTIVENESS and USEFULNESS in my current situation away from home. I have forgotten how to just idle away time breathing, appreciating my surroundings, listening to natural sounds, letting my mind wander that aren’t about problem solving, planning, and doing. I realize how importaqnt this is as my life situation evolves. I realize the more successful I become, the more pressure I put on muyself to “succeed”, be “better”, produce “more” and the more that little voice inside of me starts to rebel and self-sabotage with distractions. I believe the more comfortable I become with self-care, time alloted for brain space instead of round the clock *busy-ness*, the more success that comes along will not derail me.

    Reply
    1. Avatar Sean Frost April 9, 2019 at 11:52 am

      Love it, Catherine.

      Reply
  3. Avatar TKO April 9, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Okay a legit ongoing tragedy has really flipped my life upside down. It’s been an insane stress on our health, my career, my identity, my security and my relationships -all of the relationships with my most intimate taking the brunt due to shared tragedy and struggle.

    For the relationship, we are seeing a counselor together. We are trying really hard to be there for each other, but the other is under as much stress as we are, so it’s a little like squeezing blood from a stone – we’re empty.

    I’ve def felt like I’m in survival mode for four months now and it’s not over yet. But we’re trying to negotiate the amount of tragic news/day (even per conversation) we can handle. We are trying to keep each other and ourselves from self-destructing by rationing our conversations about the situation. Yes, that includes not talking at all sometimes.

    We’ve been together 14 years so we have a foundation. We’re in it to win it. And in the meantime we really could benefit from having the luxury to see past next week’s survivalism and imagine this less-stress existence we once took for granted, as you suggest. We will be building it from the ground up. Lots of “opportunity” there:-)

    Reply
  4. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 9, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Thanks, y’all. Glad this is clicking for you!

    Catherine — Love that your work continues to be about BEING vs. DOING and the enoughness that comes with stillness and trust that you are enough, irrespective of any sort of achievement or benchmark or outside validation. That “busy-ness” is very definitely something that’s taken up a lot of space for you. Reallocating that energy is going to take some muscle-building. 🙂 Glad you’re up for it!

    Tonya — Isn’t it the shittiest when the struggle stirs up our self-concept? For sure, at our worst, Keith and I would just look at each other from our parallel points of struggle, incapable of being there for one another more than just with a look that said, “I’m here; but that’s all I’ve got.” And sometimes that’s enough to make a world of difference.

    You’re smart to police the amount of tragedy you can consume in a setting, hon. I commend you for being realistic about your collective and individual ability to sit in the stew of it. See if this piece (about money, but still a good mindset framework for “it won’t always be like this”) helps: https://bonniegillespie.com/fixing-money-anxiety

    Sending love to you all!

    Reply
  5. Avatar Andrea April 9, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    The past month, and especially the past week and a half, has been more up and down than I needed to experience in order to know I could do it, thank you universe. (Funny sidenote – I’ve read and re-read the elevator story about decatastrophizing more times than I care to admit!) Where the energy goes from here is TBD at the moment while I pull back and breathe. But right now, at this moment, I’m feeling a joyful sense of peace reading this awesome story. Thank you so much for sharing, and congratulations to both of you!! Have a wonderful trip 🙂

    Reply
  6. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 9, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    Of course, lovely Andrea! We do a lot of this sort of thing in Expansive Capacity — sort of taking the pressure off a pressure-cooker and then letting it build back up again (because it always will) but never letting it get so far gone that it blows the lid off from too much stored energy not knowing where to go.

    Not sure how much you know about somatic experiencing and orienting (I would imagine you know quite a bit about this but that’s just because I perceive you as ridiculously smart and eager to know all the things), but that space that is being so completely present, getting a breather from the anxiety about the energy AT ALL, that’s the sweet spot of suspended animation that we can extend for as long a period a time as we need it to last, as we’re getting through the real sludge of it all.

    Sending you so much love on the whole up and down of life. Now and always. XO

    Reply
    1. Avatar Andrea April 10, 2019 at 11:08 am

      Dang if you aren’t the best, Bonnie <3 And thank you – Expansive Capacity has still been on my mind. My initial inquiry happened right before a lot happened at once. But it's moved from the backburner to maybe a mid-range burner and will hopefully move again soon. One question for now – do you ideally want folks to engage in ongoing participation, or is it possible to rotate in and out on a month to month or seasonal basis?

      Reply
  7. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie April 10, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    We have members who do it all kinds o’ ways. 😉 No one right way (or wrong way, for that matter). While our core members (those who raised their hand to participate during free alpha and then paid beta versions, mostly) are in it ongoing, there are also people who come and go depending on the topic of the month (next month, “Your Relationship with Forgiveness” — we always put the next month’s topic on the enrollment page along with the deadline for getting orientation done in time to join the group) and that’s fine too. Finally, there are members who’ve not once commented in the course pages or even shown up live for the Zoom meetings. They’re getting what they need from a more passive involvement (and that’s totally fine because while some do really well digging in on stuff with others/around others, we totally get that some folks prefer inner work staying pretty dang inner). So… whatever works for each person, really. XO

    Reply

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