My father used to tell me that we can never step back into the river in the same place, no matter how much we desire it. And to that I would respond: that may be true, but sometimes in the attempt, the result is a greater blessing than we would have thought.
At the age of 8 my parents nudged me into the world of theater. Perhaps they thought it would help me with my shyness. Perhaps, being artists themselves, they believed that everyone needed to discover their creative abilities. I ended up studying with A.C.T’s student program in San Francisco. I then went on to get a theater major at San Francisco State, and finally, in 1988, moved to Los Angeles with my sister to pursue ‘the dream.’ But for whatever reason, whether my skin wasn’t tough enough, or I simply didn’t believe I could do it, once my daughter was born, I let go of that dream altogether.
But here’s the interesting thing: even though I let go of the dream, the dream didn’t let go of me. Even though I discovered an exciting new profession as a landscape designer; and even though I delighted in the journey I’d undertaken as a writer that little voice just kept on nudging. It whispered that I still wanted to be up on stage, in the spotlight, reading my work.
Now doubtless, as many actors can attest, there is something to be said about changing costumes in a cold alley, playing to the near empty theaters, and finding yourself paying dues just for the privilege of getting up on a stage, that does wear thin with age. And it certainly made the resistance all that more understandable. As did understanding all the underlying fears. After all, what if my writing wasn’t any good? Or what if it was good, but I’d never be able to write anything as good again? Or perhaps the worst fear of all, what if it was simply ordinary…?
But as they say, ‘the truth will out.’ And one afternoon, after sharing my frustration with a friend, I committed to researching and performing at an open mike. On December 14, after a 20 year hiatus, I finally got back up onto the stage as a performer. And it was stepping back into the river, and yet, different.
It was still a tiny black room, with a small raised stage, the lights shining bright in my face. The audience was eclectic, full of other performers, but oh, so supportive. There was the same tumble of butterflies in my belly as my trembling fingers put the pages down on the podium. I told them, my new friends, that I hoped it was just like riding a bicycle. And I began to read. In the beginning conscious of the effort – to speak slowly, loudly, to look up at the audience. But after the first poem, I recognized the waters, and I was swept up, by the words, the characters, the emotions. Yes! I thought when I was done and the applause had ended. Yes! That’s why we do it. We do it because for those moments on stage we are transported. We become another being, rich in passion and emotion. We are so present, so alive, nothing else matters except expressing what is on the page and what is in our heart.
And for me, as a writer and a re-born performer, it brought the creative process to its rightful conclusion: the poem – written, spoken, and heard.
So as 2011 comes to an end and I look forward to the promise of 2012, I can count December 14 as a huge accomplishment. For on that day, I realized that change happens when the need finally becomes greater than the fear. On that day, I brought one of my great joys back into the light.
I look forward to bringing this old/new passion dancing into the new year.
Wishing you all a joyful, passionate, abundant new year!