By Julie Ufema
I was just told that I’m not as happy as I think I am. That floored me. I mean, aren’t we exactly as happy as we think we are?
I actually spend much of my day enjoying it. I share that with the rest of the world because the newness of true happiness, at times, is overwhelming. Many of the people that I share these moments with have, virtually or literally, walked beside me as I pulled myself out the funk that, not long ago, consumed me.
I choose not to broadcast the worst parts of my day and not to appear as if my life is perfect but to spend more time appreciating the good parts rather than dwelling on the bad. To be fair, I should probably be more honest with my struggle to stay positive when faced with failure and uncertainty.
I’ve always told it like it is; so I guess it’s time to fess up.
Two years ago, I did a commercial for a large hospital that was directed by the multi-Oscar nominated Caleb Deschanel. It was thrilling. I waited weeks to watch my cheesy mug on the small screen, and the night before the spot was scheduled to air, the casting director emailed me to tell me they had pulled the piece. No explanation except that “it had nothing to do with your performance.” Suuure, I thought and proceeded to cry myself to sleep. My husband was away on business, but after hearing my incoherent voice mail, he wrote me the loveliest email telling me that I would laugh about it one day after experiencing the amazing things I was sure to accomplish. I saved that email.
And I do laugh now. I really do. After years of watching my special needs sons defeat the odds and writing, producing, and directing a movie of my very own, those tears seemed silly. But they were well worth crying. They helped stoke the fire, which constantly burns, pushing me to try harder, again and again.
I wrote a book about my sons. I queried hundreds, seriously hundreds, of agents. I received some interest, but nothing ever came of it. That doesn’t mean it never will. They all told me the same thing: “Would be a much easier sell if you were famous.” Ok then. I’m working on it.
I made two more short films and have submitted them to dozens of film festivals. Yes, I announce when the films are accepted, but admittedly, that’s only about ten percent of the time, if that. I received three rejections in one day last week. Instead of throwing them in the garbage, I put them in my “festival folder” to remind myself that I tried.
My youngest son has cerebral palsy. He has setbacks. He has been through medical procedures that would curl the toughest toes, but no one needs to feel that pain when what comes from his pain is the absolute joy of witnessing when things go right.
We’re all allowed to have bad days. Happy people have bad days. The reason that they are happy is they know that the bad is temporary. The weight of rejection, pain, or failure fuels the happy instead of dragging them down. Happiness isn’t a temporary state of mind. Happiness is a lifestyle that requires acknowledging that you are willing to do the work to make tomorrow a better day.
A very wise filmmaker, Karen Lam, once said, “I put out so many feelers that I don’t even realize how often I’m rejected.” I couldn’t agree more. I can’t remember how many lines I’ve cast, but I can’t wait to see what I catch tomorrow.
Julie Ufema is and actress, writer, producer, and director, and mother of two who also helps run the family coffee business Rich Coast Coffee. Within days of the birth of their second son Dane, Julie and her husband, Jason, learned Dane had cerebral palsy, and their older son Jett was diagnosed with autism. She has written a narrative memoir chronicling the ups and downs of raising her two children with special needs and wrote, directed, and produced Caveat, a psychological thriller that premiered in 2011. To find out more, visit Julie’s website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
*Photo by amasc.