“Let’s Be Brave and Search Alone-Together”: Identity Scavenger Hunt Questions 1 – 4

You know how sometimes you meet someone and you’re just like “Yeah. Yeah you’re cool. I like you.” And then because of the Wonderful World of Facebook, you are able to connect and see more of that person and how their brain works and be like “Yeah. Yeah you’re incredibly AWESOME. Let’s be buddies because I think our brains are riding some of the same waves and I dig it. And you.”  Well, one such fantastic person I know, Tia, has started a tumblr (inspired by a production being put on by a local theatre company) encouraging folks to go on an Identity Scavenger Hunt.  And in her rallying cry of “let’s be brave and search alone-together” (which I love love love love) – I’m all in.  And I encourage you to play along as well!

Over the next 30 days or so, Tia will be posting a question or two a day from the famous Proust Questionnaire on the tumblr.  I’ll be doing my best to keep up and answer the questions here; my approach will be to not think too much about any one answer and to go from the gut.  You can answer the questions on the Identity Scavenger Hunt tumblr, on your own blog, in your journal, in your head, or feel free to e-mail answers directly to the lovely Tia at theatretia@gmail.com – she may want to use some of your answers in different ways in the future!

Obligatory picture of Proust on a madeleine ... though I admit I have never read Proust... but I have most definitely eaten a madeleine.  (photo credit: Parismarais)

Obligatory picture of Proust on a madeleine … though I admit I have never read Proust… but I have most definitely eaten a madeleine. (photo credit: Parismarais)

So without further ado…here are the first four questions and my not-too-thought-over answers:

1.  What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Feeling the gentle hum of life energy resting in the space slightly above “just OK” and slightly below “exuberant”…a joyful calmness of the soul;  clutching an oversized mug of coffee or tea in a slightly-too-cold living room while the cat is curled in my lap or on my feet on a quiet morning when the day is full of new or at the end of an evening when the day has been well-lived; when I am sharing breath and space with another and feel that click that means you are both fully present and your souls start tumbling out of your lips; an empty theatre – no expectations just the promise of endless possibility and ghosts of stories told before and hopeful wisps of those still waiting to be born.

2. What is your greatest fear?  

This has been the same for me from the time I was very young and saying it or writing it always makes me tear up or bawl like a baby (breath):  My greatest fear is that I will die and people that I love will be left wondering if I really loved them or not.  This idea is terrifying and shakes me down to my core. I know it can be overwhelming for some, but this is why I go hard on expressing how much I love people – I say “I love you” and say it often because I never want anyone to question it when I am no longer here to tell them.  (annnnnd tears…on cue… as always. sheesh.)

3. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I have NO clue…history was never a subject I paid close attention to and I’ve never been particularly moved to read biographies/autobiographies. Though maybe this is something I should explore.  I admire the heck out of Gandhi and believe strongly in his peace teachings. So maybe Gandhi? Mother Teresa is another. Though admiring is different than identifying.  This question raises more questions…

4. Which living person do you most admire?

Jane Goodall perhaps? Lately, I’ve been playing around a lot with the idea of doing “good” in the world and how if you feel ill-equipped to make a wave in the ocean, can you make a ripple in the pond that is just as “good”? I don’t know my path, I may always be a pond-or-lake-dweller so ripples may always be my jam – but I greatly admire the ocean-dwellers who make the waves.

Definition

I like definitions. Of words. Of roles. Of boundaries. Definitions lend clarity. Definitions make me feel safe. Definitions give a sense of sure-ness to something; and even if that something is not-so-sure, labeling it as such makes it OK.

When it comes to people, there are so many things that define us as human beings, so many roles each of us play and so many things each of us do that make up the whole of the person each of us are. So I find it interesting the definitions that we cling to as being “it”; as being our personal definitions.  As in:  “I am (a) _______________.”  Mom, daughter, son, brother, father, sister, artist, CEO, tennis player, dog person, cat person, yogi, lifeguard, coach, teacher, lover, fighter, Irish, Italian, New Yorker, black, white, straight, gay, bi-sexual, asexual, liberal, conservative, scientist, Catholic, Methodist, atheist, ugly, pretty, tall, short, fat, skinny, athletic, writer, reader, painter, introvert, extrovert, Libra, Gemini, old, young, single, spouse, caregiver etc. And following up on that, even more interesting to me is the: “I am a _____________ and therefore it means that I do _____________. And I like ___________. And I dislike _______________.”

I was recently #SouloAdventuring and was wandering through a part of town I rarely visit.  After two hours of walking around and passing a particularly inviting tavern several times and feeling a pull to enter each time, I went in.  There were only 2 seats at the back of the bar and I was surprised to find a high school buddy who I hadn’t seen in 11 years sitting there.   We didn’t get to chatting much because he was there on business, but in my head, I was thinking of how much I’ve personally changed and grown since high school and how much he probably has, too.

In school years, I defined myself by numerous external factors that are probably not representative of who I am now.  You can track certain things I do – like theatre – back as far as pre-school, sure. And I am who I am in part because of lessons and compounding experiences over years of my life – very much including school.  But who I am at my essence has nothing to do with being in student government or in different clubs or homecoming queen or not making the basketball or field hockey teams or getting solid Cs (almost sometimes Ds) in math. However, at the time, I found those failures and achievements and roles to be absolutely defining.

In that same tavern, I ended up sitting between two older men – both who had lived in town for stretches of time a while back and both were feeling particularly chatty so we became pals for the night.  One was in his 60’s the other probably in his 70’s.

The 70’s something man told me about studying for the bar exam at this tavern and how he eventually owned a Porsche and would zip around in that car – according to him there is a stop sign on Rock Creek Parkway dedicated to his recklessness and police chases he zoomed out of.  He talked about money and success and DC-back-in-the-day and living in Georgetown.  These were the things he wanted me to know about him. He took out his phone later in our time together and the background had a dog on it. So – of course – I asked about the dog. Then he started telling me about all the different dogs he has owned; this one is a service animal and he takes it into the retirement homes to spend time with elderly people. His girlfriend is jealous of the attention he gives the dog because he loves it so much. A completely different side; a completely different definition than the Porsche-zooming, money-focused, power-man he presented earlier.

The 60 year old is from Colorado and has a young son who volunteers at the local animal shelter. He was glad to be in DC and comes back often on business. He said he enjoys this time of year – tourist season – because you get to see all the kids in DC on school trips; his son’s trip is coming up. He is a father. He asked me a bunch of questions about myself and when I told him I do theatre he said: “Believe it or not, I like theatre.”  “Can I ask you something?” I said “Why did you say ‘believe it or not’? I’m just curious what made you think I may not believe that you like theatre?”   And he went on to say how he has always been a jock and that people don’t think that jocks like theatre.  He said that back when he was in high school he was on the football team, but he still went to see the shows that his high school put on and that people were always surprised by that.  I asked him what his favorite show was and he listed off a ton of musicals that he’s seen on Broadway or in London or in Colorado.  He even told me about one time when he and his friend were on a ski trip but the lifts shut down because it was too windy; they found out that a local high school had a show going on, and because they couldn’t ski, they popped in on a whim to check it out and it ended up being a good show.  Clearly this man truly enjoys theatre but because he played football in high school, he still – at 60 – finds it weird to tell people “I like theatre.”  Even someone in a bar who has no awareness of his history.

Definitions are powerful. How we define ourselves matters because it does dig into our person and affects the way we handle ourselves in the world and even how we handle ourselves in private.  And – in life – of course there are events that change our lives forever; then there comes the question of whether or not we define ourselves by specific events or our actions in trying times.

I don’t really know how I am defining myself these days…I feel like it’s been changing so much lately.  Sometimes I am a theatre artist. Sometimes I am a communications employee. Sometimes I am a *good* friend. Sometimes I am a *bad* friend. Sometimes I am a productive member of society.  Sometimes I am an extreme procrastinator.  Sometimes I am lost … and sometimes I am just searching. Always I am a lover and a fighter and a believer and a journeyer and very, very human.

Or maybe the lesson here is that people really aren’t able to be defined.  Maybe the definition of a person is just “I am a person and therefore it means that I do things that my soul/personhood calls me to do.  And I like the things I like. And I dislike the things I dislike.”  Maybe it’s just that broad.

Head – Skillet – BLAMMO!: Creativity, Play, “The Road Less Traveled”, and Forgiveness

For friends who follow me on Facebook or those who have found my blog through internet magic, you may have picked up on some soul-searching I’ve been doing over the last 6/7 months or so.  It’s a never-ending process and I’ve always been contemplative but circumstances are such that I spend a lot more time on my own and a lot more time occupying an inward-looking soul-space than I used to (soul-space sounds funny, but it’s so much more than just brainspace).  This has led to a lot of bigger questions and very few answers – which I have come to believe is how life works; there are always more questions than answers and we should always be asking them.

I’ve posted a few vaguebooky things to social media about feeling like the Universe is hitting me over the head with an iron skillet. To be clear: this isn’t a bad thing. In fact – it’s probably a good thing!  A dear ladyfriend of mine once shared the idea (not in these exact words) that if you are not listening closely enough and not fully following your path, the Universe will start making it rather clear what it wants by hitting you over the head repeatedly with undeniable signs, as if to say “DO THIS! DO THIS! DO THIS!”

Lately, I’ve been getting blaring signals that 1) I need to be pursuing more creativity in my life, 2) I need to challenge myself, and 3) I need to release emotional luggage that I am still holding on to.

I’m a skeptically superstitious person with Catholic roots – and any Catholic/”recovering” Catholic/ex-Catholic who tells you Catholics are *not* superstitious is lying (I mean look at the accounts of apparitions for goodness sake).  So when themes pop up repeatedly in a short amount of time – I don’t discount it as fully coincidental and look for the connections.

The other week, I had a really useful Tarot reading. I don’t want to delve too much into the details of that, but basically the cards were encouraging me to feed my creative side because I’m not being challenged and am bored.  They were saying “do the thing you haven’t been doing” and “take a nontraditional path” – that it may be difficult, but it will be worth it.  Very interesting for where I am at this juncture and while I’m not going to run out and do things based on a Tarot reading, it has given me a lot to chew on.

Then this week, there was a day when I saw many things that said “trust your heart” or “trust your story” – literally. Memes and articles and artwork etc.. My tattoo says “Trust your heart, and trust your story” and it is a life mantra of mine, a reminder to stay on my path; so when I hear or see either phrase, it grabs my attention. I’ve honestly never seen it so many times in one 24 hour block. I also received messages from a few friends that day asking me questions about life direction – putting things I’ve been thinking about on-and-off back in the forefront of my brain.

Head – skillet – BLAMMO!

That night, on my way to yoga I met an adorable 10 month big-old pittie (y’all know my love for the big pitties!) and after chatting with the owner for a minute and engaging with the dog, I learned the dog shares a name with a person who is problematic for me and a person who was occupying brainspace this week after being quiet for a while; I still played with the dog (of course) and we parted ways. Once at yoga, the teacher started with a personal story about a difficult person/situation in *her* life, a choice she made that day to let unhelpful emotions surrounding it go, and then encouraged us to all focus on letting go of something during practice.  I think I started laughing at one point during her story because I saw where this was going and was tickled by the timing.

Head – skillet – BLAMMO!

Yesterday, I had a meaningful conversation with a dear colleague/friend about creativity and she became the fourth (or maybe fifth) person in the last few months to bring up The Artist’s Way and encourage me to do it.  Then today, I spent the morning overseeing a series of interviews in which a colleague discussed the themes of creativity, play, “the road less traveled”, and forgiveness. Over. And over. And over. This was not on the docket. These interviews could have touched on any themes. Could have talked about anything. And yet these were the things that came up in each of the seven interviews.  Even the theme of “play” struck a chord because I saw a performance last night in which a sense of “play” was very evident; I had gone to bed questioning whether I still had that same ability to “play” or whether I’d become stodgy in my personal approach to acting and character building.

Head – skillet – BLAMMO!

Life is in the big things but it’s also in the details. Themes, signs, signals, directions, coincidences, skillets – whatever you want to call them, I think it’s my job to not only keep listening, but to start making bold choices and intentionally move forward onto a more creative and playful, less predictable, wholly forgiving path.

Head – skillet – OK! OK! I get it. I’m working on it. I really am now working on it.