Since last year, Heather Graham has been linked to snowboarder John de Neufville, a welcome change from dating a man in the spotlight.
“Of course, you want someone to understand your insane schedule, which is different from a typical work,” the On a Wing and a Prayer star, who has dated actors Josh Lucas and Heath Ledger, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
“It puts everything into perspective. Sometimes your job becomes so essential to you that you lose sight of the fact that there are so many other things going on in your life. It’s not just about the movie industry.”
According to Graham, de Neufville, 47, has been watching her movies for the first time because he considers himself “more of a sports guy.” “Even the ones I’m ashamed of!” Graham exclaims. “But he always compliments me and says he is really impressed. It’s delicious.”
The Twin Peaks vet never married or had kids, but “I don’t feel that I’m missing anything,” she says. “If you’re meant to have kids, you have kids. And if you’re not meant to have kids, then the universe gives you someone or something to nurture. I do sometimes feel like my projects are little kids; I have started to get more involved in producing and writing and directing.”
Graham, who is planning a TV series based on Liane Moriarty’s Hypnotist’s Love Story, says her choice hasn’t always been the most popular.
“I feel like as a woman, you’re not supposed to say, ‘I didn’t want to have kids.’ Because it’s as if they’re asking, “What’s wrong with you?” she claims. “As a man, I think it’s like, oh cool, you didn’t want to have kids. Women are becoming more empowered to make their own decisions.”
Graham feels liberated because he does not have children.
“At the moment, not having kids, I do feel free,” the two-time SAG Awards nominee says. “That is pretty great. And I get a lot of sleep.”
The Wisconsin native tries to be what she calls a “loving mom to herself,” which includes daily affirmations, 40 minutes of transcendental meditation per day, and yoga.
“The more I try to be kind to myself, the more I feel like I can take it into all my other relationships and be more loving in them,” Graham says. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve understood that I really need to take care of myself first, and then I’ll have more to give to others.”
Graham hopes he could urge his younger self to “have fun and love yourself” so that he may “have fun and love yourself.”
“Almost as if career is secondary,” she adds. “I was quite ambitious when I was younger, but my main goal now is to enjoy my life. It’s far more fulfilling than attempting to advance in your work. Of course, I am still ambitious, but anytime I can truly relax and enter a state of thankfulness, I feel as if I can truly enjoy all the good things in my life, of which there are many.”
Graham’s ability to stay present is aided by the occasional slow day.
“I think you can be more productive if you have some really excellent downtime – one day of simply laying about like a zombie,” Graham says. “So, when I return to work on Monday, I feel energized and thrilled about it. When you’re comfortable, you can occasionally accomplish a better job.”
As Graham looks to work more behind the camera, she says she still gets recognized most for her roles in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Boogie Nights, Bowfinger, Drugstore Cowboy, The Hangover, and Twin Peaks.
“I’m grateful that I’m in some things that people remember and that I still get to keep working,” she says. “So many people want to be actors and don’t ever get to work. I got to support myself doing this, so I am grateful.”