It turns out I make a lot of funny faces when I fight.
Photo Credits vary and are from several talented photographers who visited both rehearsals and performances for Mutton & Mead.
Today I give thanks for the physical me.
For the first time in six long years, I give thanks to my body.
Today, I ran a 5 minute warm up, stopped to stretch and eat a peanut bar, and then ran the local trails for 15 minutes without stopping.
This may not seem like much to many but, to me, it is a triumph many years in the making. Six years ago, my body began a slow, creeping, not-so-silent, pull away from my soul. With pregnancy, I was both highly aware of my physical presence but also quite separate as I learned to house the growth of another human who was both of me and not of me. Before long, and getting larger by the week, I ripped my left knee to shreds which remained misdiagnosed for months. A limping swollen hot pregnancy followed. In all truth, it was a healthy pregnancy with a healthy fetus, but hampered by a bum knee and a growing sense of despair, while managing what it is like to have your body live a life of its own as it gives over to the life growing inside you. Despair, no doubt from the unknown knowledge that my body was…for lack of a better description…forsaking me.
And then came a swift birth and the black eyes of my first born.
And then came the return to work. An hour each way. Nursing. Pumping. Driving. Leaving at 8am and not returning until 9pm. Nursing. Dinner at 10pm. Baby awake again at midnight. Work. Driving.
A knee surgery before which I groggily waved to my three month old and wondered if there was enough milk in the freezer. Getting the baby into bed for night nursing while wearing a leg brace from ankle to hip. Grueling physical therapy with a baby strapped to my front, or being wheeled around the fitness room by random elderly women.
Driving to work. God damn work. Baby at the sitter again.
Missed PT because the baby took too long to nurse in the waiting room.
The emotional trauma of a failing marriage. Job switch. Less driving. The long uphill rock-filled trail that leads to friendship after separation.
Illness. Never-ending illness. From the very food I eat. I am gray. Ashen. But our world is so fucked up that people tell me I ‘look good.’ And I wonder what they must think of me when I am healthy if they think I ‘look good’ when I am 25 pounds under weight. At 5’7″ and only 145 to begin with, 25 pounds was not something I could afford to lose. But I did. The rashes on my arms, the insipid sinus infections, my child’s head colds became my personal flues. My child’s mildly upset tummy became my pukes. And the doctors who wouldn’t listen, who told me to go home because I wasn’t dying and did I want some sleeping pills?
And I went inside my laptop. And there I stayed. And I thought I was, for certain, going to die. But I didn’t. I slowly healed. I still heal. I persevered. And persevered. And persevered. And when I realized I wasn’t dead, I thought maybe I should go out and live. So I did.
And so I have done. Or, tried to do. And after about two years of living again, I lost a family member. And the loss helped me discover that not only am I alive, but I am not scared of death…I am scared of not living. But in order to live, one must truly be alive. So I gave myself permission to live again.
I went dancing.
I recognized the feeling of moving to music. I began to find myself working in the garden when I should have been inside my laptop or reading a document. I found myself wondering if I could just start dancing as I walked down the street because I could feel the need in my body. To dance. In the street. I restrained myself. But inside me pulsed the feeling of this need to move with a new, sweeping rhythm.
Another year passed, and I crawled into my laptop less and less, and reached out to my loves more and more. The people I love. The people who matter. Because, in the end, it is people who matter. My body began to accept its foods again, to build muscle, to build joy, to build grace. My ashen cheeks are long gone.
Before long, I wondered, with this re-discovery of movement and the desire to have stamina once more, I wondered how to find the time to exercise. Where does one fit it in the day? I was never sure. So sometimes I did, but more often, I didn’t. Along came the long, exhausting rehearsal process for a two-woman 90-minute play, directly followed by a long, fun, and silly rehearsal process for a medieval festival.
Then, yesterday, a friend (whom one day I hope to call dear) said to me, “I was with so-and-so’s son and he really needs to be outside a lot. It was pouring out and he said, ‘I really need to be outside.’ And I said, okay.” I immediately knew this feeling of needing to be outside and inwardly marveled at the 7-year olds’ ability to know his body and know his need to be outside in the air, moving his body through the rushing air. And how I need that too.
I need that too.
I know I need that too.
Today I ran 15 minutes without stopping. I ran because I can. Because I am alive and living. Because with the help of some very good friends, I am remembering that my body is not my enemy, my body is my life. And honoring my body means taking rest, taking slow meals, touching with love, and being out in the air.
I remember now that I am one who needs to move, who needs to spend many hours outside feeling the world, who needs space. My body has not forsaken me for I am my body.
Today I give thanks to this body that is mine. To the me who remembers to love this body. And to the many friends who have helped me find movement again.
I love to perform. I always have. Even when it scares the pants off me.
Like the recital where I danced my way off stage because I was so nervous I thought I might hurl. I didn’t. I was fine. So I did my next number without a hitch.
Like my first music recital when I got up in front of everyone (all 15 of them) and entirely forgot how to play the recorder. Looking at the music was like, well, looking at a Jackson Pollock painting and wondering how that translated into the instrument in my hand. I went back up later in the recital and did smashingly.
Like my first long-form improv show. Again, I thought I would hurl. This time backstage pre-show. But there was only about 10 square feet of space and about 6 of us standing back there so hurling really wasn’t an option. I was fine. But I did spend a few scenes staring blankly at my partner and willing him to speak.
Like my first time teaching PictureBook Plays to a group of college students. As if I knew what I was doing. I did. I just didn’t feel like it in the 30 seconds leading up to introducing myself.
Have you caught on to the trend? The only time I get severely nervous is when it’s a first. Once I’m in rinse-and-repeat mode, I’m cool as a cucumber. Unless I really am sick, and that just sucks.
I tell you all this because it’s the reason I like performing far better than rehearsals. You get the initial “I’m going to hurl” factor but then, after that, you’re fine. At least, I thought that’s why. Until recently, when I discovered that I may, in fact, like rehearsals better.
I am 33. I mention this because it has been a turning point year for me, and the passage of time along with the resultant life experience feels significant enough that it is worth mentioning.
At 33, I finally understand: It’s okay to suck. In fact, it’s actually really fun to suck…in rehearsal.
In rehearsal, you are meant to be lousy. It is your time to be terrible. To forget your lines, to go the wrong way, to make the wrong choice, to take the wrong step. And the more terrible you are, the better you are by the time you perform because you have spent hours giving yourself permission to make every possible mistake in the book. And it’s really fun to make mistakes knowing that no harm can come of it, other than a few minutes having lapsed.
It’s really fun to make mistakes with no pressure.
For a long time, I thought I liked performing better because I was used to the pressure. I’m a long-time over-achiever with a concentration problem. I know what pressure is. So the question becomes, how does one apply this lesson to performances?
Wait for it.
The only one putting pressure on you to ‘impress people with your performance’ is you. So stop trying to impress people with your naturally expressive acting and deep, soul-filling character choices. Just go out there, do all the good stuff you learned while sucking in rehearsal, and tell a story.
The rest will come.
Just enjoy telling the story.
33 years old, and this is what I got. Imagine what I’ll know at 66.
I am disheartened and frustrated that BUST, a magazine that I trust and love and share with my daughter would hop on the bandwagon of misinformed consumers. This month, you included one long paragraph about the new LEGO Friends line of toy. Like a majority of activists, you have latched on to the negative components of their poor marketing strategy without actually playing with the toy, or asking a child to play with the toy. Case in point, your brief notes included the statement, “According to my back-of-an-envelope calculations using data from Lego’s website…” Since when is raising strong girls a simple story of number crunching?
Raising strong girls, and consequently, strong boys, is about qualitative interactions, reasoning, and dialogue. My daughter is 5 and like many girls who walk down toy aisles, she veered away from LEGOs. No matter how many times her father and I tried to introduce her to the awesome that is LEGO, she just kept walking by. This is a LEGO MARKETING FAIL, not about the toy itself. Their website includes ditsy looking figures and the only game is about getting dressed. The commercials make it look like the toys are full of diamonds the size of your head. But, did you take the time to open up a box and play with a child? I doubt it.
Like everyone else, you have used poor marketing to judge a quality toy. Ask them to change their marketing, but don’t smack the toy with one-sided evidence. I have a daughter, as I said, she’s five. And she doesn’t want fantasy play, which is what a majority of LEGOS are. She doesn’t want to play with figures that are boys. She wants figures that are girls. And the LEGOS friends set, gives her that. It also gives her a play that expands on her everyday world, which is what she likes. No other LEGO set offers that. LEGO Friends has opened up the world of LEGOs, it has become her gateway drug to an awesome toy that supports mathematical concepts through following complicated directions, problem-solving, and creative building as well as supporting the development of making-sense of the world through dramatic play. Now that she has girls to mix in who have puppies, and really cool cars, and vets offices, and science labs, and swimming pools,
she yearns for Lord of The Rings and Police Officers too, not to mention the circa 1985 space kits that my brother saved and she diligently built. Don’t compare toys based on the number of pieces and assume they have been dumbed-down. Sit down with a little girl, open up a box, and build it together. Then you can decide if it’s a quality toy. Then, you can support a petition that says to LEGO, change your marketing to tell the truth, include photos of girls on all the boxes, and start adding more girl figures to the rest of your sets.
Because, you know what? If I were a little boy, I would want the new figures in LEGO friends. They are far cooler than their tiny boxy counterparts.
Next time you tell us about an activist movement that is meant to change the world, please take the time to gather all your evidence rather than blindly following the crowd, because blindly following is exactly what marketers want you to do.
My original post about LEGO Friends is here.