“When you’re confronted with fear, you can choose to be fearful or fearless. There are two ways to live your life.” Writer, actress and activist Shiva Rose is tougher than her name might suggest. At age ten Shiva fled her home in Iran with her family; a dramatic escape which involved their plane being hijacked before entering the United States as refugees. As she adapted to her new world, Shiva sought solace in old films, fashion and books, leading her to pursue a career as an actress. Shiva has since left the Hollywood scene following her divorce from Dylan McDermott, and is creating a life and business that feels closer to home: “I’ve tried to recreate the surroundings I had as a child: growing my own food, having honey bees and chickens, getting back to the earth. The Local Rose grew from that desire of needing to get back to my roots.”
“My mom is American and my dad is Iranian. I was born in the US, and we moved to Iran when I was a baby. We lived in the countryside, in a rural, farm-like area. My mom was a total hippie—she would teach yoga, make candles and wine, and we were always out in nature. When I was ten years old we fled the country, and I’ve missed those early surroundings ever since. To leave my home with only the clothes on my back was incredibly challenging. My divorce (which was seven years ago) felt like I was experiencing a different version of that—like I was starting all over again. I don’t know if that feeling of being an immigrant ever really dissipated. I’ve always felt a certain split in who I am, which I think is something a lot of people feel. I feel like I’m finally coming together as a whole in my 40s. That sense of groundlessness is definitely less prominent than it used to be. I still have days where I can’t make a decision or get stuck in my head, but what helps me is to get outside, go hiking or get in the garden… suddenly I feel like, OK—I know who I am, where I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.
I typically have a very calm nature, but can also be very passionate. I can’t stand injustice, particularly with underdogs. My activist work has always been driven by a need to expose the truth. For instance, I knew on a completely cellular level that we were never invading Iraq for apparent weapons of mass destruction. I knew it was a lie. Lo and behold, now they’re saying it was never about weapons, and there’s horrific collateral damage. I’ve been arrested twice for anti-war protests, but what I’ve learned since is that you don’t need to be physically arrested to make an impact. You can get a lot done behind a computer when it comes to certain causes—for example, the genetically modified food issue is something I get really fired up about. I try and instill that sense of truth in my girls… it’s one of the basic tenets of being a good person. I tell them, do your best no matter what you do.
Don’t take things
personally. If people are talking about you, it’s their own issue.
Something they don’t teach you in school is how to trust your intuition. I had to rely on my intuition from a very young age, and most of the time it’s gotten me to a good place.
I’ve had to work really hard to get my nervous system grounded because of that trauma early on. It showed up in illness in my 20s and 30s, but I didn’t link it at the time. But the fact that I’ve lost everything and rebuilt it twice has given me courage. It’s enabled me to be a little bit more adventurous, with this approach of, ‘Why not put everything into this company that I’m creating? Why not?’ And all the small triumphs are cumulative—they build upon each other. If I do have a victory, I try and focus on the feeling as if I’m still in it. It truly, truly attracts more. My experience has given me a sense of resilience—I feel like a survivor. I may come off quite feminine, but I have a warrior spirit. Divorce is one of the most challenging things I’ve had to overcome. I don’t think people realize how devastating it can be until they actually go through it themselves. Even I remember thinking, how bad could it be? But there are so many things that come into play once you’re in it, especially with children involved. But through all of that, I finally feel like I can be my own guardian—I don’t need that from anyone else. That’s probably the biggest gift that I’ve self-given: being able to carry myself.
All of those things
you look to other people to provide—I’ve really found those within myself.
That’s not to say that everything is all roses and rainbows now. My demons will occasionally pop up, and I’ve had to figure out what works best to fight them off. For me, getting back to gratitude helps those things to fall away. It’s more than just saying it out loud though—you really have to feel it. I have this deep sense that I must enjoy what I have.
It’s not going to
be around forever and I’m not going to be around forever. Now is the time.
It’s incredibly challenging to have that mentality when you’re in pain, but it’s something I would have told my 25-year-old self, for sure. At the stage that I’m at, I’m old enough to realize how precious life is, yet young enough to enjoy it. You realize more and more that this is all so fleeting. I don’t want to not enjoy a sunset because I’m not with that person. I don’t want to wait until I get that thing to let myself be happy.”
Photography courtesy Shiva Rose
As told to Amy Woodside, June 2015