Behind the scenes on the set of the OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network television show Queen Sugar, where I play the character Aunt Vi, we actors have a lot of fun.
But...this day things went too far.
Dondre Whitfield - the actor who plays Remy on Queen Sugar - and I often start the day playing. Our play can be described as a loving version of playing the dozens - we sprinkle our conversations with fast paced sarcastic zingers, and look for the perfect opening to slip in a playful insult. As crazy as this may sound, our play is all in good fun. It ignites in us, and often the people around us, hunched-over belly laughter.
However, the other day, our play took a left turn. There was nothing mean-spirited that took place. The playing just went too far. It came close to being obnoxious. Sort of like being on a roller coaster ride with one too many big loops, followed by a steep drop; your stomach becomes queasy and you just want to throw-up. That’s where we landed.
We didn’t mean to veer off our lighthearted path, but in life, sometimes even with the best of intentions, you wind up somewhere you don’t want to be.
This blog is about how we got back on track. That achievement belongs to both of us. It rises from the kind of inner fitness work we both are committed to doing.
I can’t speak to Dondre’s internal process. But, I can certainly share my own: When I found myself “turned-off” because the playing had gone too far, I knew I could not blame or point my finger in Dondre’s direction. I had to fully acknowledge my action-by-action participation in building our shared situation. This is a tricky step because when things go wrong, the ego wants to point a finger and slyly avoid taking full ownership of its behavior. But I had learned that being honest with myself - acknowledging my good, my bad and my ugly - is a crucial step in fostering internal strength and wellbeing. Telling myself the truth always gives me the opportunity to address or change what I don’t like.
I have also learned to be willing to make the first move, if necessary. I knew I had to, and wanted to, reach out to Dondre. Friendships can easily break if we forget how fragile they can be. I didn’t want more than a day to pass before reaching out to him. So, I sincerely internally processed the turn of events, slept on my thoughts and reached out the next morning.
I shared with Dondre my experience of the day. I took responsibility for the parts that clearly belonged to me. I affirmed my love and respect for him and made a comment about how I would do things differently in the future. Never once did I use the word “you” in an effort to blame, nor did I mention his behavior in any way.
Dondre Whitfield is an extraordinary man. He definitely does his inner work. He, of course, expressed his own heartfelt accountability.
There is nothing better than traveling the sensitive nature of relationships with people who work on their inner fitness.
As always, I encourage you to get fit now, so that you can rely on your inner fitness to help you when you need it most.