Most people probably assume actors would be good at being proud. Why wouldn’t they? What, with all those parties and photographers and fans fawning all over them.
Maybe there are some actors that are good at it. I certainly wasn’t. And none of my actor friends seemed very adept at that emotion, either. The industry culture is just not set up for that.
A lot of us were too worried about getting to the next thing – the next audition, next job, next premiere – to take a moment and feel good about what we just accomplished. We were always terrified that we had said the wrong thing to the wrong person or wore the wrong thing to the wrong place. It felt like shuffling along a narrow pathway on the edge of a sheer cliff. We were always just one tiny misstep away from losing Hollywood’s fickle affections and falling to our deaths in obscurity.
Growing up in that environment, combined with my inherited Canadian tendency for overly-aggressive humbleness, continues to make pride something of an enigma in my life. I baffled my husband when he was telling me over dinner that he was proud of something he accomplished at work.
Him: So, it went well and I was really proud of that.
Me: You were?
Me: What does that mean?
Him: Am I using hard words?
Me: No, I mean, can you literally explain what it feels like to be proud of something?
Him: Well, ummmm…are you serious?
I was serious. And that seemed like a serious problem that I could not even identify what that emotion felt like. Because if you are not able to be proud of your accomplishments, that means you are relying on other people to tell you if you are doing something good. You are just sitting there like a poor, neglected animal, waiting for a pat on the head. You are completely beholden to other people’s opinions of your actions, instead of relying on your own sense of purpose.
That sounds like a terrible way to spend my life.
Which brings me to the other day.
We have this bathroom door that closes by itself. It’s annoying. The dog accidentally gets trapped in there and we have to keep it propped up with a giant bottle of hydrogen peroxide, which I end up tripping over on my way into the bathroom in the middle of the night.
It had been like that for, like, 6 months but last Saturday, I decided that I had enough of the stupid door. I googled something like “how to stop my door from closing by itself” and found a video. I got a hammer and screwdriver and removed the hinge pins and hammered them a little so that they were slightly crooked. Then I put them back, and that created enough friction that the door doesn’t close by itself. The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes, but I had to go up and down stairs a lot and I also had to find the screwdriver.
When it was done, I stood there in my pjs, hands covered in greasy door-hinge stuff and watched my bathroom door not moving of its own volition. Something inside my chest felt light. My face got a little warm. I smiled. Oh my God, I’m proud. This is it! I’m doing proud!
It’s not like I had saved the world and I’m not claiming that I’m the world’s best door fixer and if I’m still talking about fixing this door a month from now, clearly I’ve taken pride too far. But this is different from boasting or bragging or being full of yourself. It’s just the pleasant, glowing stillness that comes from being satisfied with something you accomplished. It’s about being happy with the present moment and your place in the world. It’s about not feeling like you need to get to the next thing in order to be content.
Even if it was just fixing a silly bathroom door, I succeeded at making something just a little bit better.
For one glorious, flickering moment – I felt like a fucking wizard.
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