Sunday, November 22, 2009

Owning It.

Last night I watched my show open, and it was a great show. People listened, and laughed, and the music all worked, and the cast were brilliant.

And at the reception I was thanked, and appreciated, and complimented, which felt amazing. People I'd hardly spoken to during rehearsals because I was too shy, too wrapped up in myself, came up and told me what a great job I'd done. I sat in a little room drinking gin and talking to people I really like and respect and felt totally accepted.

And it struck me, afterwards, how much time and effort I waste, waste, on being fearful. And scared. And shy. And self-doubting. And although I'd had such a good time during this process, it would have been so much better if I'd left those feelings behind me much, much earlier.

I'm not going to wallow in regrets about that now; I'm going to try and hold on to all those wonderful things I felt coming my way last night so that next time, next job, I can step into my role with pride and strength and know, right from the start, that it's going to be an interesting, challenging, fascinating journey. And that I am just the right person for the job.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Getting Mad.

I knew it would have to happen. I watched a run-through of the show and they were ignoring things I'd asked them to do many times; being as sloppy and non-specific with the songs- my songs- as they were being precise with their lines. I adore them all, and I think they like me, but somewhere along the way I had lost their respect, and the music was suffering.

My boyfriend, a graduate of the same theatre school, was matter-of-fact. "Get angry with them," he told me. "I know how they think. They won't respect you unless you're tough with them. It's what they're used to." He was right (it's a fantastic, but very challenging theatre program, where the teachers' philosophy is to break you down and then build you back up.) and they deserved it. So why was it so hard? Why did the thought of having to give a hard-ass speech (much less harsh than anything they hear daily from their instructors) at the next day's rehearsal keep me tossing and turning that night? Why does anger, or the mere anticipation of it, tie my stomach in knots and make me weep?

I hate to play the old blame-my-parents card, but anger (healthy anger, that is) was always a tricky issue with us. We're English, for god's sake. We suppress. We stiffen those upper lips and swear, tightly, that nothing is wrong. None of us is very good at blowing our tops and moving on; we glower and sulk until prodded. I can't get angry without a million buzzing voices of self-doubt torturing me:
It must be my fault.
What right have I got to be angry about this?
If I show anger, I won't be loved/liked anymore.
If I get angry, I am a demanding bitch. I should be more accommodating.

I am a woman. I would be willing to bet that we have more anger issues, in general, than men do. And that for some reason- and no, I don't think my parents can take all the blame here- I cannot feel angry without getting so wound up that I cannot use it effectively. Assertively.

"Remember to breathe," my lover tells me, the night before I have to stand up to my cast. "If you feel tears coming on, breathe from below them." He gestures to my stomach, the centre, as my Akido sensei used to say, of my Qi. J has been assailed many times in the last decade by my highly-strung, ineffective rage, and so his words feel especially like a gift.

I go in to rehearsal and deliver a talk, so choked up that I can hardly get the words out. I don't cry, although my chest feels as though there are metal bands around it. I don't know if the lecture helped, but the next run-through is noticeably better. And I think they still like me.

Two days later I am still shaking my head at myself, and looking for solutions so that it will get easier the next time. And the next time. And the time after that. Solutions that are mental: detach, don't over-analyze. Solutions that are physical: centre, relax, and above all: breathe.

Even when you know deep-down that you need to change; and you're willing to make that change, it's always easier said than done, isn't it?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Hallows Eve

Every two weeks I sit in a small office and tell a gentle, motherly lady about my problems.

Which, the more I go, I realize just how lucky I am.

Not that I didn't know this already, but sometimes you forget, in the daily rush and press of life.

If nothing else comes of these sessions, at least I will come out of them knowing this: that the anticipation of events is what scares me; that I am strong and brave when it comes to actually doing things. I write down the things that scare me, and then I watch them crumble into dust when I face them head-on. A new job. A difficult person. Being broke. The future.

Right now, my mom is working with people who have been broken since they were kids. They are broken, and yet they build hope with what they have left to work with, and they carry on. They are lawbreakers, addicts, homeless, bipolar. In the shadow of their misfortunes I am speechless and grateful for the gifts I have: love, family, friends, work.

Tonight was the perfect Halloween night, as if all the planets had aligned: Saturday night, clear but slightly misty, and... (special bonus): Daylight Savings the next day. The streets were choked with freaks: bunnies, slutty nurses, witches, cowboys, monsters of all descriptions. The side streets echoed (and echo still) with firecrackers. It was as if the whole city had been saving up its zany party animal side for this one night. I threw off a long day of work, threw on some mad clothes I found in the dark corner of my closet, and headed out into the night to gulp red wine and eat too much sugar.

Too lucky to feel anything but happy on this night of spirits.