I have been thinking a lot recently about proactivity and the benefits that come from that kind of behavior. As described before, proactive behavior involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. It means taking control and making things happen rather than just adjusting to a situation or waiting for something to happen.
In acting training my classmates and I spent plenty of time focusing on listening and reacting in scene work. But characters in plays are also incredibly proactive - their circumstances force them into the mindset of Now or Never. As Emily likes to say in improv, Today is the Day. Today is the day I quit my job, Today is the day I tell my mom I'm dropping out of college, Today is the day I sell all of my belongings and tour the world with just a knapsack on my back, Today is the Day. This proactivity is what pushes the lives of the characters forward. It opens the door for new discoveries. It sets the stage for a new improvements and enlightenment.
I now teach this concept to students in acting classes and have made an effort to integrate proactivity into my own lifestyle as a result. I would feel rather hypocritical if I encouraged everyone else to try an acting or improv class or writing a play if I refused to try that as well. So this has been the year of doing theatrical things where I lack confidence. I jumped into improv, a skill that always terrified me. I wrote a play during a very beneficial workshop at ACTF. The workshop also gave me plenty of tools to drop the mental blocks and get writing on a regular basis. I have made it a goal of the summer to write a little something every day - and then to get up the courage to share that work.
That day came on the summer solstice of this year. The arts community of Laramie got together to create work of all styles and genres inspired by the Major and Minor Arcana of Tarot. Relative Theatrics' Playwrights Inc. group became involved with the help our tarot expert, Richard Morell. Each playwright was paired with an artist and/or card with the goal of writing monologues and scenes inspired by the artwork. I was paired with Ariana Kimble, a wildly talented artist who brings nature, power, and femininity into everything she touches. Two cards were assigned, the 10 of Swords and the Moon. I should preface, I know very little about tarot. I asked my tarot knowledgable friends endless questions, listened to podcasts (I highly recommend The Archetypal Tarot Podcast if you're in the market for listening material), read books, surfed the web, basically researched Tarot and these two specific cards without end. The newfound tarot knowledge, combined with the inspiration from Ariana's artwork, set a clear path into the tarot monologues. Did I have periods of writers block? Yes. Did I have moments of self-doubt? Absolutely. Did I ever give up? NO. I made a pact with myself to write something every day, whether I had the inspiration or not. The end result was pages of mediocre writing, and just enough nuggets of gold to assemble two strong, but very different monologues which were then performed by local actors at the Major Arcana Tarot Project Art Showing.
This is the second time I have ever shared my writing with the public. My heart was thumping. But the actors brought such life to the pieces and the work was so well received. And best of all, I left the evening with a newfound feeling of accomplishment and self-pride. I did it! I took the risk. I reaped the benefits. I may not be at a place where I will call myself a playwright, but I can say that I have had my own work produced. That is a pretty neat feeling.
Do you have something you have been wanting to do but are too scared/nervous/comfortable? What about a moment when you stepped out of your comfort zone to try something new? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!
And because I shared the story of my monologues, I suppose I will share the monologues as well:
Stop. Please, just stop it. Can you hear yourself? Where do you get off telling me this a good thing? That I’m better off?
You don’t understand. I have been betrayed by my own body. There is light in my cells being spit out and consumed by black holes.. Lesions. Plaques that physically and mentally limit what I am capable of. They counted them on the scans - ten scars that are splaying me open in all directions and stopping me in my tracks. Everything that I have worked so hard for has been taken prisoner by an internal war beneath my skin. Immunity, the very source of protection that we all rely on to survive, has turned into my attacker. How does one navigate that kind betrayal? I can’t blame anyone but myself, and even that does not give me the solace I need because I cannot fathom why my own physical home would self-destruct like this. What have I done to deserve this? I take care of myself. I do all of the things a healthy person should. Yet my bitch of a body has decided to punish me - to tear me apart from the inside out.
I think it’s plain to see that I have a pretty serious mind/body disconnect. I’m told that now it’s all about conservation. Economy of exertion. But I gotta tell you, the idea of finding a balance between my expansive ambitions and these crushing limitations is daunting. Pushing myself to greatness is all I know and I have accomplished so much with that mindset. I haven't taken a break in years and I love it that way. I love the grind. I love what it gets me. Once I got a fortune cookie that said, “You will be admired for your accomplishments.” And I am. Or, I was. Catching up with people always elicited awe and pride. And now I have to kiss that goodbye. Because there is no hope for breaking free from this cellular oppression. I just have to learn to cope with it.
I’m tired of acting sunny and optimistic. I’m tired of saving face. I’m tired of hosting a battleground inside of me. I’m just tired. And I need help relocating my passion. I need help to persevere. I am navigating unknown territory and it terrifies me. I have no sense of what lies ahead. Right now my path is shrouded in menacing thunderstorms and I just have to hope that walking through the storm will lead me to clear skies.
I don’t know if all this is the universe’s way of telling me to chill out, slow down. But this is my pill and I have to swallow it - not you. I have to take a break, reexamine my lifestyle, refocus. Perhaps this shift of perspective and slowing of pace will serve me far more than the grind and hustle that excelled my life and career to this point.. But that’s for me to discover on my own time, not for you to assert. I don’t need a life coach right now, I need a friend. Offer me a helping hand. Tell me it sucks. How sorry you are that I’ve been dealt a crap deal. Tell me you’re here for me. Give me support. And then, maybe, hopefully, I’ll be able to shed this scaly coil and fit into the skin of my new life.
10 of Swords
By Ariana Kimble
Ink and Watercolor
By Ariana Kimble
Ink and Watercolor
[an ear-splitting, uninhibited laugh]
Boy. How is it you don’t know? You have blinded yourself to the truth. And why? Fear. Anxiety. An unwillingness to own up to your actions, those dark subconscious thoughts. You try so hard to be good - an honorable, respectable man by day. But at night you can’t control your carnal impulses. In the light of the moon you turn into an animal, howling for carnage. Somehow your humble beginnings caused you to pursue danger in order to give your life excitement. Taboo altercations give you the thrill of living, allow you to make an imprint on this earth. I understand - I’ve been there. Care to know difference between you and I? I have learned to control my own power with awareness and precision, rather than waste it through spurts of veiled recklessness where accountability for your vile actions is neglected. I can help you harness this power as well - it you will let me.
First, you must see yourself for the being you truly are. You have been foolish, boy. You have lived selfishly, causing pain to those you have stepped upon. You have used your teeth and claws to rip the sense of self of multiple women to shreds.
Second, you cannot neglect atonement. If you gloss over the destruction you have caused then you will always fight shame in the pit of your stomach. No soul can live that way, not even a beast.
[A menacing growl from the beast]
What? Don’t like what you’re hearing? Light must be shed on the situation for healing to occur. I must stir your pool to illuminate the truth of it all. You have been an animal.
[She reacts to his advance of violence]
Whoa. Calm yourself boy. Acting out in violence causes no productive outcome.
[he does not back down, she tries a soothing tack]
Please. Relax. Yes, lifting the mask is difficult, but living in illusion will cause you more internal pain in the long run. Please. Trust me.
[She reaches out to pet, he bites]
Ow! [She examines the bite marks on her hand, accruing rage]
You beast! You dare bite me? You may be able to hurt other women by lashing out, but not me. Don’t you get it?
I. Will. Tame. You.
I am governed by the same force that rules the sea and moves the tides. Just as Venus rose from the waves triumphant, presented to the world as a pearl in an oyster, I will too. You’ve cracked me open, now it’s time to be Revered.
Down beast, and bend to the will of the truth. Pass through the muddled confusion and allow liberating illumination to light your path and transform your demeanor. Open your eyes to the way you have been living. You must understand: Vigilance and clear perception are necessary to uncover what is hidden before it is too late.
Allow me to let you in on a secret - expansiveness starts with identifying your own self worth. Let go of conscious mental blocks and negative self talk to release the self-doubts that haunt you and drive you to savage behavior. You don’t have to act out to make a splash, you simply must trust your intuition enough to rise out of the deep waters smoothly and strongly, with confidence. Shed your animal instincts. See me in your human form. Open your heart and I will lead you through these dark waters to a brighter day.