Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Taking Care of my Heart

Last Sunday afternoon, I went to one of my acting classes, as is my usual routine. It's been a class I've benefitted from greatly, so I've continued going and continued growing.

However, last Sunday's class took a miserable turn south. Halfway through class, the teacher was talking, and I was deep in thought, not paying attention, and had a big yawn. My teacher noticed, as I was right in front of her, and I immediately knew I had offended her. I apologized sincerely. She asked me if she was keeping me up. I apologized again. Then she proceeded to scold me in front of my classmates for the next 3-5 minutes, accusing me of pushing her buttons. I was so humiliated, tears started to roll down my cheeks. Finally, seeing that she had made me cry, she said, "You know, sometimes the best lessons are learned when we've been hurt. Maybe this is one of those times." She then went on to continue teaching the class. My mind was reeling, and it was hard for me to pay attention at all. All that I could focus on was my bruised soul that had just taken a beating. She stopped the class again to call me out and asked if I was "going to be able to remain present". I said I would try, but that it was difficult because I was hurt.

I made it through class, and when it was over, the teacher asked me if I wanted to stay and talk or if I would prefer to talk on the phone later in the week. I said that I would be willing to stay and talk (hoping that we could work through this). I followed her into her office and thinking that I could make amends. However, she was still seeing red and proceeded to berate me all over again. This time, she imitated my yawn (so I could get a visual, and know the depths of my insult to her) and twice imitated me staring into space (with my eyes crossed, no less!). I kept listening, hoping that the tidal wave of anger would end and I could speak. But when I opened my mouth to speak, she snapped, "What?". I paused and said, "I don't think anything I say right now will help." She agreed and told me that she needed to calm down before her next class and said we could talk later in the week.

She called me the next day and left a voice message. She said that she was sorry that class wasn't a real "positive experience for you". However, she hoped that her stern words would help me to avoid such a situation in the future. (In other words, she hopes that I learned never to yawn in the presence of anyone on a set, especially the director. She told me that if I were to do that I would get thrown off the set.) She said that her heart was no longer pumping and she was ready to let me have my turn to speak.

The thing is, what would I say? I had already offered my apologies, which she said she wasn't interested in. And frankly, I felt that I was actually the one deserving of an apology. I decided not to call her back. My soul felt too raw and rattled from our last conversation, and I didn't want to be on the receiving end of that kind of verbal/emotional abuse again. eSuitor told me that the best gift I could give her was to not go back to her class again. Perhaps that would communicate that it is not okay to treat another human being that way. I agreed.

I didn't go back to class on Sunday. My teacher called me again tonight. She left me a voicemail wondering if my absence means that I am not coming back to class. She asked me to call her. Something in me (the part that wants to protect myself from further nastiness) doesn't want to return her call. I decided to send her an e-mail instead, saying that I am still processing what happened in class, and that I will contact her if I decide to come back. I tried to make it diplomatic while still being honest about the fact that her actions are impacting me and influencing my decision of whether to return to class.

I feel 10% like a wuss for not picking up the phone and talking to her in person. But I feel 90% wise for protecting my spirit, which deserves no more of her biting words or nastiness. If I were dealing with a normal human being who wanted to work things out, I would call. However, I don't know who I'm dealing with. I only know that she is not a safe person for me to expose myself to, so I am listening to the voice inside that is telling me to steer clear.


Anonymous said...

You're a smart girl, Shiny. And Mr. e sounds like he's got it going on too. You're on the right course. For the record, I agree with him.

Ally Bean said...

You are 100% wise to protect your spirit and not at all a wuss to email this person. I think eSuitor has a good idea about not going back. Learn acting from a professional person, not from a fragile egomanic. imho.

wordnerd said...

Absolutely wise to protect your heart in this case. But I am left a little appalled by the whole thing...what an abusive situation. NO ONE deserves that kind of treatment Starshine....and to be berated not only in public but also several times after an appology....well,...I'm just not sure there's a way to remove the toxicity from that relationship.

I understand if you'd want to go back....FOR YOU...however, please don't feel that you should go back for her (or that you are a wuss in any way)....there's a limit to what we CAN and SHOULD all take...it's a question of self respect.

You know I'd back you regardless of your decision...but I'd really NOT like you to accept any blame in this situation..:*)

You rock Starshine...don't forget that!

ML said...

I agree with you about listening to your inner voice and eSuitor. This acting teacher was completely horrible to you and she not only showed you what kind of person she is, but she also conveyed that to the other members of the class as well.

You are not a wuss! She obviously has problems, and you are not there to be her punching bag. She does not deserve to be in your presence!

beenzzz said...

She sounds horribly unstable. I'm glad that you did not return her call. I think e-suitor is right! I'm sure there are plenty of other excellent acting classes out there that you can take. Don't let her have power over you, ok. She's just a small person who is unhappy and has to punish good people to make herself feel better. She should be pittied.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I have been in this situation and I know exactly what you mean.

J said...

When I was in grad school, one of my professors unloaded on one of the students, and it was ugly. The whole class basically tried to intervene, the student was professional and said, can we talk about this after class, and the prof kept at it. It was horrid. I went and complained to the chair of the department, hoping that it would get in his file that he was a psycho. I honestly think that you should do this, too, if this class is being taught through a school of any kind, or a community center, whatever. LET THEM KNOW.

And no, you should never have to talk to this woman again, should you choose not to. A yawn? GET OVER IT LADY!

Sharon said...

Her inability to accept your apology and continue to pound on you her indigation is unprofessional in any context. I know that acting is a tough field but so is life and she does no one any favors by her method of teaching. She is not a teacher - she is a highly insecure dictator. Highly recommend that you move on and take a class from someone who can tell the difference between a momentary lapse and arrogance. She has a lot to learn about life.

Vader's Mom said...

I think you handled yourself with grace and dignity.

I look forward to reading more...I hopped over from Laura @ The Noodle Incident.

Love Bears All Things said...

First, individuals who verbally abuse others in the presence of collegues have a problem with self esteem. Putting you down makes her feel superior. All I can say is, pray for her. As The Word tells us, we are to pray for our enemies. Even when they don't nessecarily deserve it. Just a short one will do.
A yawn is the body's way of taking in more oxygen;breathing is the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen and sometimes we don't take deep enough breathes to accomplish this.
I think I would have reacted the same way and I think I would have had to leave class. She was not treating you with respect.

Queen, III said...

What a skanky skank! Listen, this is the problem with actors...and acting teachers especially: they're too focused on themselves to see the reality of the world. She got mad at you over a yawn?!!! A YAWN?!!! Holy crap. What an idiot. Everyone yawns sometimes...and if this woman was a good teacher she would realize that when people are uniterested in what she has to say, it's her fault. I'm a teacher and I have to deal with far worse than students yawning. If my students are bored or uninterested in the subject matter, I blame myself. I blame myself for everything. Because I'm the teacher. I'm the leader. If things go wrong it's my fault. Your acting teacher is a silly, silly woman. Get an acting teacher who's a little more easy going, responsible, and in touch with reality! An acting class should be a safe place, not scary.

Starshine said...

Thank you all so much for your supportive comments. I so appreciate them!

Queen, III, it is so great hearing your point of view, since you are a teacher. I agree that an acting class should be a safe place, and not a scary one. That is my main reason for deciding to leave the class. If I were to go back, I would be so anxious. All I could do is sit there and think, "Don't yawn. Don't yawn. Don't yawn." How counter-productive is that?! There is now way I could feel creative freedom and liberty to take risks in such a toxic environment.

Buttercup said...

What a bi-atch! I can't believe that. Yawning is normal bodily function and she completely over-reacted. In addition, there was no cause for her to seek to humiliate you. I'm sorry she hurt you so much that she made you cry. Perhaps the woman is so insecure that she felt threatened by your yawning. Total B-I-T-C-H. Don't spend one more seceond thinking about this. Based on your story she had absolutely no right to treat you with such little respect.

sarah said...

I found you via wordnerd. This post speaks to me. I'm so inspired by you for protecting your spirit and at the same time not going off on the crazy teacher. Finding that balance is often a challenge for me. Good luck with the adventures that await you: the focus on your acting career and your wedding planning.