First, I want to thank wonderful Amelia for asking me to write about being grateful. It’s a wonderful assignment and I feel no pressure after reading all the others.
It was my 25th birthday. I was celebrating by laying face-down crying in the shag carpet of my bedroom floor. I was living in an apartment in Redondo Beach with my sister. (Not the reason I was crying.) At the time I was the executive assistant to Jack Canfield the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, and today, on my birthday, I felt like a total failure.
Jack had just started to see some major success with his new book and I was his new executive assistant. I handled his bookings, spoke with clients, and tried to look executive assistanty, since my training consisted of someone showing me my desk.
From time to time I had to put press kits together for Jack. Copies of newspaper articles, photos, reviews, awards, celebrity joint ventures, etc., were all stuffed into one glossy white folder.
To me, it was the “look at all the things I’ve accomplished and you haven’t” folder.
Honestly, I thought I was going to be the short stocky Julia Roberts by 23. Here was the plan. I would be working on feature film after feature film by my early twenties, I’d absolutely be set financially and at this time I would have already surprised my hard working mom and dad with a new home. It would have Spanish tiles. Because my mom loves Spanish tiles. They would cry, and I would say thank you for everything (while still crying) and they would be blown out-of-the water ecstatic, but unable to get the words out because of their crying.
I had won all sorts of awards in high school drama and I loved performing so much so I just knew that this was going to be it for me. It wasn’t until I took my first professional acting class that I found out, I had no idea how to act.
So, I started taking acting classes in LA, sang in a gospel choir in Inglewood, and did theater in the South Bay. I really hustled. I did all this with the undercurrent of feeling that I was behind. I had missed the boat. Yes. At 23.
This went on for years. And then more years after that.
I had a very disciplined practice.
It consisted of looking at, and focusing on how far away I was from what I dreamed my life would be, feeling terrible, and then holding that feeling.
All day, err day.
It sort of stopped when I had my first child. But then, before long, it was back. Of course I had many moments of joy. My wedding, my 2 babies, all the moments I got to experience with the kiddos working from home. But I would always go back to feeling like I was getting farther and farther away from my calling. My dream. From where I was “supposed” to be.
I knew in my mind what I was grateful for. You know that obligatory check list you go through in your head?
I was thinking gratefulness, but I wasn’t feeling gratefulness. I was feeling more like a victim.
So, the question. How does one feel gratefulness?
Practice. Gratefulness is a practice, which means it takes practice. And most of us, don’t like to practice. Anything.
My dad was the ultimate provider. He worked his life away providing for my mom and three girls. For the most part, I don’t think he really ever really felt proud of what he had done for us. He couldn’t feel it. He was racing. He too felt like he had missed the boat. From drying his shoes in the oven as a little boy, to buying a home in Palos Verdes, Estates, California. He still felt like he hadn’t grabbed that brass ring. But he had. I used to tell him that all the time. It’s difficult to feel grateful when you set an impossible standard for yourself because it makes you feel like you never ever get there.
I was blessed to be able to make it out to Florida to tell him how grateful I was to him for everything he had done before he passed in 99. I was out there for two weeks and at 5am before I headed back to the airport, he finally sat up in his bed and spoke. We had a beautiful conversation. After we talked, he gave me 2 free drink tickets for United Airlines. Ultimate provider.
Being grateful does not mean that everything is just the way you pictured it to be. Or that you don’t want more. As my friend Diana Lang says “Acceptance is not resignation.” I love that saying. It’s saying things are what they are right now, and you know what? It’s okay. And, the more you make it all okay, the more things magically seem to change. Without you forcing them to.
I’ve had a lot great opportunities in my life. I’ve been flown to Cannes. I’ve traveled to London to interview Renee Zellweger and my imaginary husband Colin Firth. (Yes. More handsome in person.) I’ve performed at Radio City Music Hall twice and have had an absolute ball on some really hilarious and silly productions. I’ve been able to mostly work from home raising two kids. Only one of these things were in my original vision.
The most important lesson I learned from my dad was to make sure that I feel my life while I’m in it. I’m in charge of that everyday. To accept my life and know that it’s perfect just as it is. And even if it’s not perfect, it’s perfect. Just saying these words, I feel grateful. Because truly, I would take my family on the couch with me, over a month in a Honeywell trailer any day of the week.
Unless it’s a 3-episode arc, then that’s totally doable.
Angela Hoover is mother of two, a comedian and a lover of all things character. She owns more wigs than shoes.
Angela was a semi-finalist doing celebrity impressions on season 8 of NBC’s America’s Got Talent has guest starred on Inside Amy Schumer and Casual, and you can see her on Disney’s Walk the Prank if your under 12.
Last year she did 30 celebrity impressions in 30 days. To see all of them or to be notified of her next challenge you can follow her on @angelahoovercomedy on Instagram. Her strengths are cake making, impressions and hugging her kids. Her weaknesses are too long to list but include time management and weighing the pros and cons of a situation for hours on end.
Visit the website: angelahoover.com to subscribe to her newsletter