A Reflection on October

October, 2014

Twenty-nine days into December, I now reflect on October: a difficult month of the year.

Part of March was also difficult. After March, I rested. In April, it took me twenty days to write A Reflection on March after my exhaustion. For October, it has taken me two months. It has not taken me two months because of exhaustion. It has taken two months out of a desire to distance myself from the difficult memory of October.

It’s been a miraculous year, yet sprinkled with low points—some low points more severe than others. Part of October was a major low point. For weeks, discouragement imprisoned me. When I made the choice to throw away discouragement and embrace encouragement, I learned a valuable lesson about perfectionism.

In October, I was tempted to abandon my aspirations. The root of my flirtation with this temptation stemmed from failure. What did I fail at? The answer: perfection. A standard of perfection imposed on myself by none other than myself.

On September 28th, we began filming our first major scene on Space Prairie. For months, I’d dreamt of the day when we’d finally begin rolling tape. After months and months and season upon season of buildup to that moment, it had arrived. I spent a week preparing to shoot the scene. When our first day of shooting ended, I felt horrible about it. In my mind, everyone had done a wonderful job—except for me. When I ran in the footage and viewed it, I didn’t see everything we’d gotten. I saw everything we didn’t. I felt I was a horrible director and that everything I’d built up to was in vain. Not to mention, I had 99% of the film left to shoot. I obsessed over my shortcomings after that first day of filming, and entertained the worst thoughts about myself for days.

At the time of beginning production, I was overwhelmed. I had a whole feature film in front of me. That was exciting, but what made it overwhelming was the reality of making a film alongside achieving my senior year of high school. Though overwhelmed, I had faith I could pull it off. After production began, serious self-doubts emerged in my mind, questioning if I had the ability—the competence—to do it or not. Or if I had the time to do it well.

For a year, I fantasized about what that moment would be like when we’d begin filming on that first scene. When that moment came, I felt disillusioned. It was now a reality. My perfect vision for the film was now vulnerable to the realities of it taking on real form. And my looking back at my imperfect direction made me think, “Am I ruining the film by making it?”

Now, the footage from the 28th isn’t bad. In fact, it’s good. (It just isn’t perfect. And in a director’s mind, the gap between “good” and “perfection” is often unhealthily drastic.) Looking back on how I handled my warped feelings of inadequacy in October, the thoughts that followed were unfortunate.

How could a few imperfections on a film result in my thinking harsh thoughts about myself? I think it’s accurate to distill and simplify several variables down to one: Since the beginning of the year, making Space Prairie has been my identity. If Space Prairie wasn’t a triumphant production, I wasn’t a triumphant person.

Launching Wes Brooks Productions and making Space Prairie has been the metaphor for my coming out of a dark season, in which all dreams were crippled by severe health issues, and claiming back the light and joy that is rightfully mine.

Since August, I felt my health and vigor decline. I was overwhelmed by schoolwork, worn out trying to find cast members to be a part of the film, and secretly frustrated that so little progress on the film had been made. (At the start of the year, my hope was to release Space Prairie this fall. This plan has enlarged since the spring.) I was tired of all the demands I was placing on myself on top of the demands placed on me by others. Furthermore, I felt the impurities of the environment around me (everyday toxins, dust, etc.) taking a toll on me. It was harder to function—smaller tasks becoming harder to accomplish.

Come September, when we began filming our first major scene, I lost my voice during a monologue, took too many takes, hobbled around in boots that were eating my heels and bruising them (giving me blisters for three weeks), didn’t have enough sunlight on latter shots, and only shot half of what I wanted to. After that, not only was I overwhelmed, I was discouraged. And I went downhill from there.

Instead of recognizing that I had never directed a feature film before, and that the process would be a new experience that would present things to improve on (not to mention giving myself a little grace because of those boots…), I escalated what were “improvements to make” into “dire failure”.

I was tired of fighting the negative thoughts that taunted me all year long in the midst of my successes. I’d fought them so that I could harness joy and light and make the film I always wanted to. But when the film I always wanted to make wasn’t turning out how I wanted it to, I allowed myself to collapse. Again, if the film wasn’t a triumph, I wasn’t. (Though I never would’ve put it like that.)

If you were to ask Luke or Jerry (co-stars of Space Prairie) what they thought of our first day’s work, they would’ve said, “It was great! We had fun!” My disappointment was exclusive and all in my head—distorted and exaggerated.

Reading the Bible helped me regain my footing. I read some of the Proverbs and the book of Daniel and the Gospel of Matthew. It felt good to escape from my world and into another. The positivity and power of scripture washed over me.

Once I chose to ignore the harsh things that I thought and felt about myself, what I thought and felt, was foolish.

The story continues in A Reflection on November. For the remainder of A Reflection on October, let’s dwell on the bright side. Even at my low points, I am a remarkably blessed individual. October saw a lot of good.

Our family took a trip to Panama City Beach, Florida. Originally, we headed to Alabama for a family reunion on the Brooks side of the family. We made the trip with my grandmother (on my Mom’s side) who was going to spend the week with her late husband’s sister and her husband. Unfortunately, on the day of the reunion, my Mom received a phone call: my grandmother’s sister’s son had unexpectedly passed away. We broke the news to grandma, and cancelled our plans to go to the reunion so that we could get grandma back home to be with her sister as soon as possible. It was an unfortunate turn of events. But our family wasn’t about to let it end at that…

Our family loves traveling on the road. We can’t get enough of it. Instead of staying home after we’d arrived home to bid grandma farewell, we woke up at 4:00 AM the next day and drove all the way to Panama City Beach, Florida from Illinois. (After the reunion, our plan was to go to the beach with family.) We arrived at 7:00 PM, and had dinner with our family, there.

We had a tremendous time with my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins from New York whom I rarely see. Among our aquatic activities on the beach was paddle boarding! I’d never done it before, and I’m proud (and astonished) to say, I never once fell off! Also, on the shore, my parents signed the long awaited contract for the construction of our new toxic-free, mold-free house. We broke ground on our home later in the month. I’ll write more about our new home in A Reflection on December.

When I got back from the trip, the Space Prairie gang and I held a group gathering. We introduced and got to know our newest member of the cast, Myranda. You’ll meet her in an upcoming post, Space Prairie: Introducing Myranda.

I made October a difficult month for myself, but it was no less one filled with blessing. See you tomorrow for the equally overdue A Reflection on November.

Upwards and onwards,

~Wes

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