Showing Up (but not all the way. This is part one.)

There’s a formula I use a lot in my practice. Here it is:

Show Up

Pay Attention

Tell the Truth

Don’t Be Attached to the Outcome

It’s a handy little thing that you can apply in all sorts of situations from the easy ones like making sure you take the time to do what you truly love to the really hard ones like swimsuit shopping.

But lately, I’ve been really stuck on the first one. Which strikes me as funny because, as I say in a show I recently wrote, “Show up. That should be easy. I show up for a lot of shit I don’t even want to do.”

 Oh, that show! It is the delight and the bane of my existence these days. And also—oh, to show, to let myself be seen! Also the bane of my existence. Show. Shockingly hard overwhelming work.

 Oh, I’m not even making any sense. Let me start at the beginning.

 Okay, so earlier this year, I put on this show that I wrote called Life (coaching) is a Cabaret. This was essentially a huge deal for me—I hadn’t acted in years and just to make it even more terrifying for myself, I put in a ton of singing, which I love to do, but which has traditionally terrified me whenever I’ve tried to do it in front of an audience. Or even in front of my Maltese.  I’m not kidding, I break out in a sweat, can’t breathe, shake and usually end up crying whenever I’ve tried it. Which does make for an interesting spectacle, but—well, call me crazy, but I want people to enjoy my performing because it’s good, not because it’s like a train wreck where you’re horrified, but you simply can’t look away.

 Why on earth, you may wonder, would a person want to go through with idea of performing when it literally makes her publicly vomit and cry?

 Well—it’s because this is how my soul-self, my essential self shows up. And damn it! I really did not want this to be the case. I wanted to be content being a life coach and helping others find their bliss, show up in their own lives. But—well, it turns out that as I was coaching others to show up, there was a niggling voice saying: “But what about you? You want to write, you want to sing, you want to act more than anything in the world. You can hardly be an authentic coach if you’re lying to yourself.”

 “Oh, shut up!” I would say to that voice. “I tried being an actor, I failed, I don’t want to do it anymore, I can’t take one more failure in that arena, just shut the fuck up! I’m perfectly happy as a coach. I never need to perform again.”

 And then I’d go eat.

 And then the voice would come back. It was like that moment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the guy rings the bell and yells: “Bring out your dead, bring out your dead!”  And another guy comes out with a man over his shoulder and says: “Here you go.” And the guy on his shoulder says: “But I’m not dead yet.” And the guy carrying him says: “Yes you are. You’re dead.” And the man being carried protests, “No I’m not. I’m not dead yet…”

 Well, apparently, my need to perform wasn’t dead yet, either. I don’t know why. I’d tried to kill it for years. I’d banged it on the head, shot it down, suffocated it, stuffed it like a calf slated for veal and still: “But I’m not dead yet.”

 Why would I wish something clearly so important to me to be dead? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. For years, I thought it was just because I couldn’t take one more rejection, one more comment about my appearance, one more “Thanks, we’ve seen enough.” But now, having worked with a lot of clients who are working their damndest to deny their souls, I think it’s more than that. I think it has to do with the vulnerability that is present the second you admit that something is really important to you—and that you can’t control AT ALL whether other people will feel the same, or get it, or like it along with you, or think you’re crazy for needing to do it. There is nothing that makes a person feel more alone in a vast universe, I don’t think, than admitting their fondest and wildest dreams, much less trying to make them come true.

 I’ve never felt more defenseless in my life than on the day that I realized that if I didn’t perform again, I would one day die unhappy and filled with regret. I was in my office listening to a teleclass and my teacher, Martha Beck asked:  “If you knew you would die 10 years from now, what would you regret not doing?” And I knew immediately. And I had to hang up the phone because I was hyperventilating and I ended up on the floor in my office in a weeping heap. Because I knew what I wanted and even if it embarrassed me, and even if I was bad, and even if no one came or cared or saw, I had to try again. I couldn’t stop crying and quaking in fear, but I finally got to a sitting position and said out loud to the universe: “Okay, then. But you have to help me.”

 And because I admitted my dream, heeded the call from my soul, and decided to really show up—in all my imperfect need, all my fear and all my willingness to concede that I love what I love—the next morning, in my email inbox, was a notice for a class: Musical Theatre Intensive! Come work with supportive teachers to update your material. We can help you to overcome nerves, build confidence as well as building your book. We’re here to help.

 Oh, come on. But it’s true. So I decided that was my answer and I took the class. And met one of the best teachers there (Ron Kellum,) whom I’ve ever known. And found my amazing accompanist Cassie Nickols there, whom I love and respect and really needed. And that’s how I started showing up.

 I started writing this to tell you how I’ve been having trouble showing up lately, but this is already really long. So I’ll finish next week. Seems this showing up skill is a lesson that I need to assimilate over and over and over and over and over again. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what your essential self would like to show up for. I promise not to laugh. And, in addition to performing, I still love to coach. So—let me know if I can help nudge you along.

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012 at 9:24 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

 

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