Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Coming Back From The Edge: Midlife Mayhem & Miscellany with Mariann Aalda

Edge of Night head writer, Henry Slesar, once said to me, “I love making you suffer, because you suffer so well.”

And suffer I did, as the feisty young attorney, “DiDi Bannister,” which I played on that soap opera from 1981 to 1985 (airing on ABC), till it went off the air. In those 3 ½ years, “DiDi” endured the tribulations of being involved in a torrid love triangle involving police detective “Calvin Stoner” & his wife, “Starr”… being brainwashed and carted off to an insane asylum in a straight-jacket… being held hostage at knife-point by a crazed, irate client… reuniting with an estranged brother -- only to then have to help him beat a murder rap… and on and on…and on.

So how does “art” compare with my real life?

Well, for starters, one of my co-workers was charged with murder, in what became known as “the trial of the century,” * and another one suffered a fatal heart attack on the job, right in front of me.** On a gig not long after that, I endured a severe allergic reaction in a work-related situation which forced me to take steroids if I wanted to keep my job.***

Then, my career got “downsized” due to a case of early-onset ageism (which hits most women in Hollywood when they turn forty) and I lost my health insurance because I hadn’t earned enough to qualify. At which point, I also became an “empty-nester” when my last kid went off to college and my husband flew the coop! Along the way, my dad died and my mother was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke, and I moved two thousand miles across-country to become her caregiver.

Sound like a soap opera? Or -- even though some of the particulars in the melodrama might be different -- does it sound a little like stuff you might be going through?!

One of the reasons soap operas are so popular is that they help take our minds off some of our own problems…and allow us to role-play, coming up with different solutions for them. Vicariously, we also get to celebrate, grieve, be forgiven and become inspired.

That’s what this column is going to be about. I see it as kind of a “Guiding Light” for exploring how to live a great life past midlife by taking control of given circumstances and: resetting goals; reprioritizing priorities and recommitting to our dreams.

The reason I wanted to launch this column at the end of the year was to give readers a chance to think about the changes you might want to make in your own lives.

Then, starting in January, we’ll set out together on accomplishing our New Year’s resolutions.

I promise to give you updates on all my setbacks as well as my successes; to fill you in on some of the silly stuff that happens along the way, and to report on unpredictable little “miracles” that somehow seem to always show up just in the nick of time.

It should be quite a year. I’m hoping that some of you will be willing to share on how you’re doing, as well!

For the record, I happen to have a credential in “advice-giving,” as a Certified Hypnotherapist, but I don’t plan on doling out too much advice…preferring to lead by example instead.

To give you a little background… When I started my practice as a hypnotherapist in 2003, I saw a pattern of mid-life depression experienced by women who had been “hypnotized” by the media into believing that they lost value as they got older. Truth be told, I’d started buying into that myth too! But when I began working with my clients and giving them positive subconscious suggestions to combat these negative thought patterns, my own beliefs began to change as well -- so much so that it made it impossible for me to continue “talking the talk” without “walking my walk!”

As a result, I discontinued my practice and resumed my acting and writing career with a renewed enthusiasm and purpose… writing, producing and performing in projects for the theater and cabaret, and occasionally guest-starring on television.

My primary goal for the next year is to consistently work in television, again …the specifics of which might include (but are not exclusive to), becoming a regular or recurring character on a soap or a sitcom -- but I definitely want to have my Screen Actors Guild health benefits re-instated! In the soap world, Guiding Light’s Kim Zimmer and Susan Lucci of All My Children are my role models…still sassy and sexy at damn near sixty! In primetime, I’ve got to go with Vanessa Williams. At forty-five, she’s a little younger, but you have to admit that girlfriend is kicking some serious “boo-tay” as a mature but-still-vampy villainess on Ugly Betty.

As for relationship stuff, I don’t have any goals for that yet, but I promise to keep you in-the-loop on any “interesting” midlife dating escapades! :-) I’ll also keep you posted on how my naughty, “seasoned woman” theater project with cohort, Iona Morris, (ex-Fiona Griffin, As the World Turns) is progressing in our goal of bringing the show to New York. **** (Details, here)

Since so many other baby boomers are facing the dilemma of dealing with elderly parents starting to “slow down,” I’ll also share with you some of my day-to-day challenges in being the primary caregiver to my ninety year-old mom. And from time-to-time, I’ll also have updates on some of my former Edge cast-mates on how they’re progressing through mid-life…along with occasional “Hollywood Dish” from some of my other showbiz friends.

Sound like a plan? Okay, so now give some thought to your plan, and get ready so we can embark on this year-long adventure together…I’m looking forward to it!

Love you madly :-)

* Playing opposite O.J. Simpson for three seasons as his wife on the HBO series First & 10.
** On the CBS sitcom, The Royal Family, playing opposite Redd Foxx as his daughter.
*** As “the tragically disfigured Lena Hart” on the NBC soap opera, Sunset Beach, having to endure a 2 ½ hour make-up job for each appearance to create the facial disfiguration of the fictitious malady, “Martin’s Syndrome” -- which was proclaimed by Soap Opera Weekly as “The Best Bad Storyline of 1998!”
**** The first co-production (with a third partner) met with great critical and commercial success in a 2-year LA run (www.3BlacqueChix.com). The bar’s been set even higher for the new show!

To watch vintage episodes of The Edge of Night, go to the AOL/PGP Classic Soap Channel, today!

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