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?