Photo credit: Casey Gardner Photography
I believe roles come into my life when I am ready for them and when they are ready for me. It's equal parts preparation and destiny; I have to be properly aligned for any of it to work, but I have no control over it. That's why I try not to sweat booking acting jobs anymore. (Full disclosure: I used to REALLY sweat it. So, no judgment if you do.)
I learn so much from every character I play, but lately, I have been thinking a lot about Fay, the lead character in Jump by Charly Evon Simpson. I played her a little over a year ago, and the experience changed my life. Fay is a complex, beautiful, hot mess of a human being that lived in my skin for two months.
In true Fay style, I almost missed the audition to play her. I found out about Jump two days before the first round of auditions. No one in the theatre house knew me, but I felt drawn to the story and decided to give it a shot. I tried my version of Fay in that first round and just kept going, never quite feeling like I had her figured out. I remember sitting in the waiting area, surrounded by beautiful black women that also looked like her. I tried to figure out who would make a good fit for the role, not actually thinking that the team would choose me.
Before Fay, I felt like I was stuck in an emotional pain cycle for a little over a decade. Like Fay, I had some depression and unresolved grief. I'd just started going to therapy, but I was timid about the whole thing, censoring myself in the sessions.
When I got the role, all of that changed. Fay FORCED me to face my pain directly. We shared trauma, and she said so many things out loud that I didn't have the courage to say. She was tough and broken. She laughed and danced through hard times. She was exactly what the Doctor ordered, the creative outlet to be a hot mess too!
Playing Fay was hard. The rehearsal process was both challenging and satisfying. I felt both determined and doubtful. In performance, I was emotionally present, but I could only handle it one day at a time.
I am just now understanding how profound the whole experience was for me. The role was my opportunity to work out my personal mess on stage. I thought facing all that trauma at once would break me, but it cracked me just enough to see what was going on in my heart and truly heal from the inside out.
So, if I could talk to Fay face to face, I would say:
You're a bad *ss.
Thank you for the safe space to work through the pain.
Thank you for teaching me that I am perfectly capable of every creative challenge I want to take on.
Thank you for being a vital part of my healing process.
I finally made it out of the pain loop.
I am okay, and you will be too.
Challenges are meant to be embraced, not avoided. They humble us. They teach us about our humanity and force us to expand. I wouldn't trade Fay for the world. She made me grow, and I am eternally grateful.
While walking recently, the impulse to pick up the pace hit me. My mental reaction? Confusion. Why on earth would I start running when I get so much value out of slow, boring walks?
Walking reminded me daily that progress is progress, whether I move fast or slow.
Walking forced me to slow down and enjoy the process: it’s my moving meditation.
Walking allowed me to make peace with the uncomfortable seasons of life.
Walking taught to be patient with my Maker and with me.
My daily walks started as a frustrating reminder of my weakness and have since become a retreat from the noise and business around me. Walks are life to me.
So, when I got the urge to start running, my confusion morphed into a slight panic. Was the old me trying to creep back in? Was I pretending to be content but secretly hoping to get back to running through life with reckless abandon? I kept walking and thought about it. With time I realized that the urge wasn’t discontent. It was a sign that I was getting stronger and was ready to work on my physical and emotional stamina. The voice in my spirit was whispering, “You’re stronger than you think you are.”
So, as an act of faith, I enlisted My Love as a running partner. It took about a week to work up the courage, but we got out there and ran. Well, our first night out was a light jog up and down the street that ended with a very winded Cyrah. BUT we did it! Every weekday since that day, we’ve dressed for a run, stretched our limbs, and stumbled out the door, (whether we felt like it or not). Somehow we make ourselves start and don’t stop until we’re done.
Every day I’m less sore.
Every day I pant less.
Every day I enjoy it more.
The events in my life just seem to reflect what happens in my quiet time. Career opportunities have picked up. My relationships are demanding a little more of my attention. In the best way, life seems to be asking for more of my energy than it was before. What’s beautiful about following my spirit is that I was prepared for the change of pace. There are moments when my soul is a little confused by it all. It wants to run top-speed into everything … because now it can. But, after a year of walking, I know better. I force myself to keep walking on the inside.
Two years ago, I felt like everything about my life was moving too slow. If I had downtime I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had to deal with my discontent head-on. After working on my heart for a while, I’m more content in any state. The urge to run only came when I was fine with just walking. I’m thankful for the lesson.
Now I feel peace and gratitude. Period. AND it has nothing to do with my external circumstances. I may be moving faster on the outside, but inside I’m still on that slow, boring stroll that brings me so much joy.
The following is a letter I wrote to my love:
Babe, today was tough but profound.
This morning I woke up acutely aware that I finally had something concrete for doctors to look into, and my mind almost went into full-on panic mode. What if they wanted to treat me in a way that hurt my body? What if I needed surgery? What if? What if? What if? And as I drove back home from dropping off our little one, I realized I’d just that quickly picked the whole situation back up again. It happened so fast! I immediately started verbally letting go of everything that was worrying me, and my heart rate slowed again. So, I guess staying anxious is a choice?
After my come-to-Jesus moment, I went on a hike with one of my friends. She talked about her issues. I talked about mine. For the first time in a while, I didn’t feel like the only person giving in the conversation. She reciprocated with some really good advice.
As we talked, my body overheated and I passed out. It sounds dramatic, but it was bound to happen. I didn’t drink water, and we were walking in ninety-degree weather.lol. Do better Cyrah… Surprisingly, the experience wasn’t scary. In some weird way, the whole thing reminded me of what letting go looks like in a very practical way.
When my body overheated, I completely lost control and passed out. but someone was there to catch me and take care of me. The passing out wasn’t nearly as bad as the fear of passing out when I started to feel off. I had a deep dream and woke up to a caring friend, who actually KNEW how to make sure I was okay. She wasn’t panicking. Her medical training kicked in. She got me into the AC, fed me, gave me water, and monitored me. We laughed as I ate, cracked jokes, and went our separate ways.
I think this experience was there to show me what letting go looks like in real-time. It’s like a figurative trust fall and being caught by someone capable and loving.
So, today was a good day after all. I just had some mind-stuff, talked it out with God, and literally had to let go. Before jumping into the rest of my day, I hydrated and took a nap, allowing my body to recover. I’m thankful, and I’m more than okay.
Before jumping into the rest of my day, I hydrated and took a nap, allowing my body to recover. So, today was a good day after all. I had some mind-stuff, talked it out with God, and literally had to let go. I’m thankful.
I’ve been working on my mental health for about two years. As a softy, empathetic artist, watching the news feels overwhelming, so I subscribe to an email service and skip the sensory overload. I know what’s going on in the world, my industry, and my interests within ten minutes. It’s awesome.
A couple of days ago, I skimmed my digest, and an article from Psychology Today called, “Release: When to Let It Go,” by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. grabbed my attention. I felt drawn to it, so I read it.
Here’s some background:
About a year ago, I started having mystery symptoms. The hardest part about being sick with something undiagnosed was the battle with my mind. Because I was having symptoms in my breasts and in my limbs, I could not shake the thought that I had cancer. I did not have cancer. I’ve had all sorts of tests to prove it. I don’t even have cancer symptoms. I just had this idea in my head because I watched my mom’s battle with the disease. I thought that because she lost her battle to it, it was coming to get me next.
I had these terrifying images in my head of my body lying in a casket and this sickness being the end of me. I was scared, but instead of saying I was scared, I went into battle mode. I decided that I was going to fight these negative thoughts head-on, even though deep down I felt like God was saying that “fighting” my thoughts was the wrong move.
I read a couple of “positive thinking” books, and I did the work of trying to overcome my thoughts with more positive thoughts. Every time I had a negative thought, I tried to interrupt it with something positive. Sometimes, I would say positive words out loud, even scripture. Sometimes, I just tried to meditate on a new positive outcome. I was willing to do anything to get my thoughts to turn around. I felt like I was at war with myself.
While I was at war with myself, my spirit was whispering a different story. First of all, I wasn’t dying. This sickness was just something I needed to get through to heal from a lot of pain from the past. I was promised that I would heal physically and emotionally on this journey, but it would take time. It all sounded great, except for the time part.
It’s a year later, and my body is still healing. Am I better than I was when I first started this journey? Absolutely. But I have only “kind of” been diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance and with dehydration (one of the three times I went to the ER.) No major medical diagnosis. No prescriptions. It’s just me, God, therapy, and a holistic practitioner feeding my body what it needs to heal on its own timeline. For a year I’ve been working on my body while battling the same old thoughts. Some days are better than others. I know in my heart that I can’t trust the negative thoughts, but they never magically disappeared like the books said they would.
That brings us to two days ago when I read this article about letting go. It basically summed up all of the things I’d been hearing in my spirit. Instead of fighting my thoughts, I actually needed to surrender the whole situation to the Creator. I needed to release all of it.
Once, on one of my magical walks, I heard that still small voice whisper, “I just want you to trust me and enjoy your life.” Hearing that baffled me. I thought I was trusting. I was out here walking, talking, and learning. I was doing what I felt like the voice was telling me to do with my life. What was I doing wrong? The issue wasn’t what I was doing per se, it was what I was holding on to that wasn’t mine to hold. I wasn’t fully steering the ship, but a finger was still on the wheel in case I needed to take over.
After reading the article, I knew it was time to completely let go of the situation. I needed to let go of my timeline. I needed to let go of the outcome. I needed to let go of the need to be in control of my thoughts. So, I grabbed a candle, lit it, and said a prayer.
The moment I opened my mouth, the tears started flowing. I poured out all of my emotions and profusely apologized for my lack of trust. I completely relinquished control for the first time. Once I poured it all out, I blew out the candle and put a lid on it.
The moment I let go, I became aware of two things.
1. I was lighter.
2. I felt afraid.
At that moment I realized my control issues came down to fear. And for the first time in a while, that was okay. I acknowledged the feeling and released the need to fix it.
It’s been two days and my mind has been better than it’s been in a year. My body feels pretty good too. I don’t know how long it will take to feel completely better, but that’s okay. I don’t need to. It finally sank in that real trust is surrender, letting go of the need to know everything and letting go of things having to go my way. I’m already winning because I’ve chosen to live in peace right in the middle. And for the first time in a good while, my life is imperfect, but I’m content.