Tag Archive | gratitude

LOVE MAKES THE WORLD GO ‘ROUND: IN MEMORY OF MY FIRST CRITIC

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The theatre community of Elkhart, Indiana, is mourning the passing of Marcia Fulmer, a prolific arts editor, writer, critic, director, and actress. I met Marcia at the age of 15, when I was cast in the chorus of a musical called Carnival that she was directing for Elkhart Civic Theatre, which operates out of the historic Bristol Opera House. In terms of community theatre, ECT was one of the best around, and I was beside myself to be performing on that stage.

Early into rehearsals, someone left the show, and so I was “upgraded” to a role with one line, as half of a “fake Siamese twin” duo. Marcia told me, in a rush, to pick up my sides from the office. I was so green, I didn’t know what she meant, but was too scared to ask her. So I asked for my “sign” from the office and discovered that it was one square of paper bound between a cover. Typed on the page was the “cue” line and then my own line of dialogue. I didn’t have a full script so I had absolutely no idea where my line was supposed to come in, which caused me tremendous anxiety.

Marcia knew her stuff and pulled no punches in her direction. I realized I was working with the most professional person I’d encountered up to that point and tried to do everything right. One day, we were choreographing a big musical number with the entire cast, and I was situated up on a ladder with streamers in my hand. I was worried about calling attention to myself, certain that the focus should be elsewhere, and so I held the streamers still while I sang. Marcia singled me out in exasperation during notes, saying, “Don’t just stand all the way up there with your streamers hanging down. Wave them around!” I felt humiliated to be called out in front of everyone and for doing the “wrong thing” but it gave me a swift lesson I needed to learn: that I was allowed to be seen and that I was encouraged to contribute of my own accord instead of waiting for instruction. I also had trouble because my line was comedic and over-the-top and it felt like death-by-torture for someone as insecure as I was. Marcia had to demonstrate a possible line reading for me (which she rarely did) and, once again, she gave me permission to at least attempt to come out of my shell.

We had an amazing cast which included quite a few mischief-makers. During a tech rehearsal, I learned that it was a bit of a tradition to play practical jokes during the scenes. I was terrified of what Marcia would say but, to my surprise, she tolerated the tomfoolery while also refusing to crack or to deviate from her rigorous direction. I celebrated my 16th birthday during the run and the cast surprised me with singing, cake and cards one night, which she also tolerated, even though it cut into her time. Participating in that show was truly one of the happiest experiences of my life.

A couple of years later, I was cast in another musical, again in the chorus. In addition, I was given a little comedic featured role that had some solo singing. And, yet again, I was terrified. I worked hard to overcome my nerves but could never relax until that part of the show was over. My castmate, and the lead of the musical, congratulated me on “shaking less every night” at the end of the run. A dubious accomplishment. But perhaps the highlight for me was when Marcia came to review the show; I could hardly believe it when she included me in a trio of actors who “contributed some nice comedy bits.” It was the first review I’d ever received and I knew that, from her, it was significant. It remains one of my favorite pieces of feedback, especially since I knew how much those “comedy bits” scared the hell out of me.

I can’t begin to touch on the accomplishments of Marcia’s life, which are better relayed by those who knew her best. She was, however, a full-blown artist, who brought a level of insight and professionalism to a small Midwestern community in ways that completely raised the bar for many, many years. In a recent podcast, she touched on the rough spots in her life, saying that we may have tough times but being a part of something with our neighbors, like putting on a great show, can be an elixir: “God, theatre helps.” I hold such a special place in my heart for the people I worked with on those community theatre stages while I was growing up. Theatre saved my life, in so many ways, and it was artists like Marcia who helped me to see what was possible beyond those stages…even for a scared Indiana girl like me.

 

 

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HOPE IS A BEGGAR

MeditationThe creative process is not about hoping, wishing, waiting, wanting, trying, or looking–hope is a beggar. It’s about embodying and becoming your creation. ~ Dr. Joe Dispenza

There’s a reason they call it “practice.” Learning how to embody something, instead of muscling it, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are virtually no outward signs that anything is changing, which is a tough benchmark to explain in this world of form and results. Inside, though–explosions. Perhaps the greatest reward of finally reaching a moment of consciousness (sometimes only after an hour of battling myself) is that, once I get there, all of the wanting that led me there in the first place disappears. It’s like basking in the presence of someone you love, just because they are, and not for anything they might do for you. You could stay there forever. There is an awareness that something had been lacking but, in the Now, you can’t remember why it mattered. The sharp edges are gone. Outside of meditation…pain can still be felt but from a distance or, maybe, with the sense that it’s not you…not the way you once thought it was.

THE CANYON OF CHANGE

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“I am still seeking my path, I am turning a corner…but…I am doing so in my heart…”  ~Marcel Proust

Change feels like dying. At least, it does to me. No matter how much I practice non-attachment to or non-identification with the ephemeral, I still wind up clinging to some sort of order I can make sense of. Life doesn’t make sense, though, especially at the micro level. All of one’s best laid plans, greatest efforts, and deepest desires can lead to nowhere. Or so it seems.

If you’ve ever hiked into the Grand Canyon, you know that it’s a presumably endless series of switchbacks. Trying to hike out from bottom, when it’s cold and dark and your body is protesting, feels like you’re trapped in a maze without exit. Three steps forward, stop for several minutes because your lungs can’t get air and your nose won’t stop running and your mind is telling you it’s impossible, three steps forward, stop for several minutes…repeat and repeat and repeat. Your legs can carry you but you don’t know if your heart will.

Everything looks the same. The zigzagging path can only be lit so far with a basic flashlight. The landscape you traversed in the sun is unrecognizable now. There is wildness out there, surrounding you, and potential danger. Progress is imperceptible. You’re just moving forward and up because you have to but not for any other reason. You want to give up completely but then what? It’s not an option.

At some point, not even halfway through the journey, resistance to what-is becomes futile. You’re suffering so much that you sit down, allow the uncomprehending vastness–and all of the attending fear—to wash over you completely. You surrender. It’s at that moment that the universe can attune to you or, rather, that you attune to the universe. Life cannot be understood on your terms. Life cannot be controlled by your will. Life will be whatever it wants to be and you can choose to flow or fight.

One of my greatest challenges has always been to see that flowing with Life doesn’t mean that I’m going nowhere. I often feel caught in an eddy, swirling around the same patterns and cycles or zigzagging up a trail to nothingness. No matter what I do or think or feel, I can’t get myself out of that eddy. But maybe Life is meant to be a series of circles and switchbacks. We circle around the same issues and circumstances, over and over and over again, but from different vantage points. We are working out our kharma and it doesn’t look or happen the way we think it should.

In this technological age, we’ve become accustomed to quantum leaps and immediate gratification. If something doesn’t happen right now or within a timeline we can comprehend, it feels like failure. It feels like death. That’s when the microcosm of change doesn’t serve and we need to pull back, up and out of our limited perception. Switchbacks do lead out of the canyon, and what feels like a closed circle might actually be a spiral.

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