On March 11, 2015 I produced a cabaret fundraiser for my Burning Man camp. At the end of the show, as I rose up from a bow with my fellow performers, I noticed there was something in my left eye. After several attempts to brush my hair or lashes or whatever away from my eye, I realized that what I was seeing was not outside of my eye, it was inside of my eye. I went into the bathroom where there was better light and realized that a portion of my vision had gone dark.
Two days later I had surgery to save my vision.
Anesthesia is an extraordinary experience. One minute you are awake, then there is nothingness, then you are awake again. I had an awareness that time had passed, and yet there was nothing in that space of time. It was the closest my consciousness could come to the experience of death and it gave me a sense of peace. I only mention that because it was a reality that made me more open for the journey that was to come.
The recovery for this type of surgery required me to remain face down for 7 days. I had a special chair to sit in during the day and a special pillow to use at night. There was a bubble of gas inside my eye that needed to float and expand against the back of my eye in order for my retina to heal properly. As I sat in that chair face down, I read A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson, I celebrated my 37th birthday, and I began to answer an important existential question that would alter the course of my entire life, “what do I not want to see?”
The conceit of this question was that the retinal detachment was a physical manifestation of a lifelong denial of certain truths, and I wanted to face those truths so that I could not just heal my eye, but heal my Self. I began with an obvious issue, my financial debt.
First, I made some drastic financial changes. I got rid of my car and started riding my bike to work and everywhere else. For the first time, I created a budget. It included money for necessities, bills, savings and a little bit of fun. No more dinners out. No more weekends in Palm Springs. No more Ubers. I stopped drinking alcohol. I started hosting potlucks. And I sent a letter to my closest friends telling them all about this plan, so they would know that I wasn’t being anti-social and that I needed them to hold me accountable. Nine months later the debt was gone and I finally began to focus on my other financial goals. Not only that, I began to see my life as an actor from a new perspective. I had amassed most of my debt as a result of "investment" into my career - I even went so far as to buy a car using credit. It was vital for me to succeed as an actor because I thought it would mean an end to my sense of worthlessness. See, acting was a way for me to focus on being good at being someone else, not just in front of the camera but all the time. Being myself was out of the question, because I was ugly and stupid and unloveable and a whole bunch of other lies I had come to believe were true. I chose not see these lies, and instead channeled all of my energy into success...at any cost. It was inauthentic, and I was exhausted with that chapter of my life. It was at this moment, as I slowly recovered the vision in my left eye, that I finally allowed that chapter to come to a close.
Don’t get me wrong, my life as an actor served me well in a lot of ways, and I still love acting as an art form, but it's not a career for me. At the root of my performances was a passion to allow people escape; turns out what I was really resonating with was the idea that I could use my life’s work to offer comfort and perhaps even transcendence. By the time of my surgery, I had already left the entertainment world and found yoga. Now, I’ve became a teacher, and have reclaimed my passion to help others transcend their sorrows in a way that is truly authentic to me. It's a beautiful sight.