Just Do It

Time is strange.  I teach intro acting classes and communication courses and I often tell students that there is a strange time shift when you perform or present.  They generally look at me as if I've lost my mind until that first performance.  For there is something about the stage that heightens the oddity of time.   

Time is strange.  I find that certain parts of life seem impossible in the speed through which they have slipped by. And still other parts of life stand still in an endless painful freeze of time. 

Time means a good deal to me.  Having space to think and be and work.  I'm rarely bored and often feel lost in the future thinking about all the things I want to create/do. 

For the last six years I've sat myself down around the 8th of April and re-read my thesis, the day I defended it.  I had varied advice when it came to writing it.  Several people told me just to get it done.  Finish it.  But for me it was such an important part of a significant journey in my life.  I don't see myself as terribly brave, stubborn and persistent yes, not bold and daring.  I had a small banner on my phone that said "brave" on it during my grad school years.  Because I wanted to be brave.  To be bold.  And so I wanted my thesis to be a tribute to the journey I had embarked on - this journey towards bravery.   

I'm learning that boldness isn't the absence of fear, but being willing to create and live even in the face of our fears. 

There are often essays written to inspire us to live more deeply - referencing the things that people wished they had done as they approach the end of their lives and death.  And at times I feel exhausted listening.  Because to live at a heightened state is exhausting.  Life is filled with ups and downs and the everyday.  I don't often look to the past with regrets. Sadness yes, but not regret.  Because I try to keep trying.  To move forward in the face of fear. And some days things work and often they don't.   

I think about my thesis paper. "To Tell My Story".  And in the reflection I see many of the same things I'm striving for, six years later.  I'm still seeking to find beauty in my work.  To create with depth and love of the art.  And to do this all through the specifics of how I experience the world.   

The years since writing my thesis, and performing my role of Ophelia, have brought changes.  Many I didn't imagine.  As strange as it may sound, saying I was an actor even after graduate school was difficult.  For who declares themselves an artist.  And a piece of paper doesn't make you an artist.  

Today I feel more confident calling myself an actor.  I'm learning to be brave, to step more deeply into the things I wrestled with as I wrote in coffee shops and on kitchen tables.  And the boldness comes from those who walk alongside me encouraging me and saying yes, even when creating is full of missteps. 

When I wrote my thesis on Ophelia I wrote about violence towards women.  About the fear that Ophelia felt.  I read books about the growing violence that women faced in our own country and around the world.  And I saw through the work of others that art and acting can be a healing presence in the world. 

In August I will be performing in a new piece I wrote for Amiche.  A piece about a woman facing violence.  A piece about pain and suffering.  A piece about time.  A piece about stepping forward towards forgiveness.  I read my thesis and I knew that "The Heart of Shahrazad" is yet again my thesis.  Yet again a wrestling with beauty in worlds of violence.  The search for healing and the long paths towards forgiveness.  But this story comes with a deeper knowledge and experience with the things I wrote in my thesis.  For time has let me soak into my bones the things I started to wrestle with in my thesis. 

Art requires sacrifice.  And I have felt the weight of that while creating.  

But the questions that burn in me, the questions I wrestle with, face the fear and say -  I have to do this.  I have to wrestle and create.  

I left grad school with the words of my thesis advisor. "Just do it".  Just create. 

And he was right.  There is no magic wand for this creative process.  And perhaps there is more weight and sorrow than anything.  

I have been told on more than one occasion that I'm too sensitive.  That I should develop a thick skin.  And more and more I shout. No.  

For if art is to be about healing.  If my art is to be about healing.  Then I must be able to sit in the deep sorrows of this world.  And the one thing I know how to do is cry.  I can sit in sorrow.  And perhaps that is my gift that I can give back to the world. 

Time is strange.  Time is filled with small steps.  Time is repeated actions towards themes we wrestle with in our lives.

I sit in the space of those who have spoken and lived their lives - filled with struggle.  Filled with wrestlings and questions.  And in their questions and struggles I find stories that remind me to keep pressing forward.  

To just do it.  Just create.  In the face of fear.  In the face of the sorrow.  In the face of tears.  Create.  Listen.  Sit.  

And perhaps through this practice something of beauty will emerge.  

And if not today, maybe tomorrow.  So I get up.  And take the next step.  Stubbornly moving forward. 

Reading my thesis is a reminder to a commitment.  My commitment to be on this journey to search for beauty.  To listen to the world and the stories it holds.  

It's messy.  I'm a mess most days - for those who have ridden in my car I deeply apologize.  I don't have magic numbers or bullets or ideas.  I have questions.  I have fears.  I have a hunger that won't let me go. 

And so six years later I'm still trying, to just do it.  Just create, with what is in front of me.  With what I have.  To learn how to do this with greater excellence and knowledge.  To listen to those who have gone before. 

To love the work with courage and great passion.  

And say, here I am.  For however, many days I have to fill this space and time.  To wrestle against the jealousy, anger, and bitterness that would strangle my work, and face with open arms and heart the stories that come my way.