action · healing · joy · meditation · performance

BART: BY ALLAH, RISE THESPIAN!

Hahahahaha! Hahaha! Sorry, that was the acronym that
occurred to me when I was trying to figure out how to express “spiritual
experience on a urine-smelling trans-bay public train.” And, lol, I really like
it – it makes me laugh!
In any case, I will start toward the middle, and work my way
back to that.
I arrived at the audition for the musical theater company,
attempting to still my breathing into something less hyperventilatey. I
arrived, got the information sheet, and took a seat on a plastic chair in a
long white hallway with other hopefuls. If you’ve ever sat with a group of
aspiring musical theater folks, or watched Rachel on Glee, then you have some idea of the kind of energy that
is spit balling, pin balling, manic speed balling against the very narrow
walls.
Add to this the fact that at this particular audition, the
walls were very VERY thin. i.e. we,
hallway hopefuls, could hear every single note of the person auditioning as we
sat on our “Next!” chairs.
So, while sitting, I decided it would probably be good to
get my heart rate down from 76 Tromboning through my chest. You know that
really high heart-rate feeling, where you’re pretty sure everyone else can see
this thing pulsating through your clavicle? So, I began to meditate. Because it
was the only thing I knew that might calm me down. I’d looked at my music
again, but at this point, whatever was going to happen, would happen. I knew I
didn’t know the lyrics as well as I’d like, and I knew I hadn’t rehearsed as
much as I’d like, but, there was no
more, really, I could do at this point. I even tried to read a little from a
spiritual book I brought with me, but I wasn’t absorbing a thing. It was like water slipping off oil.
So, instead, I sat. And began to breathe. “Think of your
breath as a bridge between your inner world and the outer world. Notice where
your breath goes as it comes in and goes out. Don’t try to change it, just
notice. Is it deep, shallow, cool, warm?”
And I continually came back to this line of meditation
guideposts, because it would often be interrupted with comparisons. “That
person sounds really good. Why didn’t I choose a better song? Oh, they didn’t hit that note right. Eesh, are they
really going to hold that note out.” And this, began my heart-thumping all over again. Back to the breath.
Because that’s what a lot of the hallway energy is – am I
better or worse than you? Are you better or worse than me? How to I stack up?
How do I compare? How will I do?
And, believe me, a constant chatter of comparison against
anyone, “better” or “worse,” was enough to bring me out of any sense of
acceptance of que cera cera, whatever
will be will be.
To quote what I’ve heard many times, my job is only to do the
work and show up, and leave the results to G-d (Higher Power, Universe, … or
Invisible Sky Fairy, as my great friend likes to call the Power and Calm and
Connectedness we all have within us). So, however I do in that room is really
none of my fucking business. (It is my
business to prepare more, but, c’est la vie. What’s done is done.)
There comes a moment when I’m meditating – vaguely aware of the
people going in and out of the room, shuffling through their sheet music,
someone’s mom nervously helicoptering around her – when suddenly, and
surprisingly, it all goes numb. Suddenly, my heart rate has slowed to a lull,
my breathing to a calm almost still stream, and I begin to experience the tingles that I’ve come to associate with my HP. Perhaps you’ve experienced them
– I had them at that camp experience I told you about, and when I hear a
particularly moving piece of music, or when I hear a story of divine intervention,
and sometimes even at the end of one of those sappy rom-coms when everything
swells (uh, pun intended?) and joy radiates from the screen and sops right into
my core. – Those tingles.
Suddenly, sitting in this hallway, I am calm.
It’s hard to express the depth of that moment, but you will
perhaps identify with it, and also with the near-immediate return to the more
fervent breathing and heart-rate. But for a few seconds, my tromboning heart
was still. I was moved, and grateful, and surprised, and most of all,
reassured.
On my way into the city for the audition, I had to get
copies of my acting resume printed, and was in the copy shop. I was ahead of a
woman who offered me a stapler, and I said, Sure, as soon as I stop shaking! I
said I was heading to an audition and I was really nervous. She said that when
she was 16 (i.e. a long time ago), she was going on a clarinet audition, and
her teacher said to her, Imagine you are 74 years old, and how insignificant
this will seem to you then. And though there’s a part of me that feels that
auditioning for a musical for the first time since I was 17 is actually quite a
significant and really awesome thing, she’s also right. It’s one audition out
of many I believe I’ll have. Whether it’s this, musicals, theater as theater, or none of the above, I
don’t know. And I don’t much care.
What I do know is that sitting in that plastic chair, I
knew, bottomlessly, that this was a part of my path. Showing up, doing this
righteously scary thing, is beyond significant for me, and is helping to shape
the entire rest of my life.
Which, then, brings me to the BART moment. For those
uninitiated in Bay Area public transportation, BART actually stands for Bay
Area Rapid Transit, and is a train which crosses under the bay, connecting SF
to the East Bay. It is also a carpeted train system, which means it hangs onto
every loogie, urine, spill, and foot traffic odor and stain that marks it. It’s
not the place you want to bring a hot date. Nor, in fact, is it the place you’d
imagine having a spiritual experience. But, to get back to the point.
Sitting on BART, on my way into the city with my headshots,
and resumes, and sheet music, and palpating heart, I began to go inward here.
Where I went is somewhere I know – it is an open field, surrounded by a forest.
I discovered this place the first time I said it aloud to my therapist a few
years ago, “I feel like if I step out into the light, there’s a sniper waiting to take me out.” I have
felt, for a very long time, that if I step out into the sunlight, the stream of
life, my power, my gifts, my nudges, that I will be cut down, metaphorically
gunned down by the sniper(s) who stalk those trees. That as soon as I step foot
out of the shade and into the field, BAM!, dead.
Although we’ve, and I’ve, been doing much work to dismantle
this fear, it’s always been on my radar of “Don’t step too far into your own
life, Molly. Stay small, stay hidden, stay safe.” I am mostly clear on when and
how these ideas formed, and indeed, it had been important for me for a long
period of my life to stay small, hidden, silent, and therefore safe and
lovable. I am only lovable if I am small. If I get too big or loud, I will be
quashed down.
These beliefs are very old.
So, yesterday, on BART, I found myself in that forest and field. I
stood in the middle of the field, flanked by all of my teachers, guides, and
supporters. A troop, or a menagerie, or a coven, of strength. From this place,
I invited all of the snipers to come out of the forest. I told them that their
work was done, and they were no longer needed. That, as you can see, I have an
entire community of entities to help protect and guide me now, and that their job
is now obsolete.
I swept my mind’s eye through the forest to the right, and
invited the soldier there to come out. He came forward, and I thanked him for
his service, and let him know he could now leave. And he did, through a wooden
hatch door that appeared in the grassy ground before me and my team. Down he
went. I scanned through the woods from right to left, and invited all the
troops out, watched as they lowered their guns and slung them over their
backs, in a position of neutrality and peace. I thanked each one, and at one
point it felt like there were dozens, and they just all flitted down through
the hatch with my general blessing.
Finally, it seemed like there were no more snipers in the
forest. But, I went to take a look to ensure I’ve created an entirely peaceful
and unendingly safe place for myself. And, in fact, I found one last sniper. I walked into the forest, and a ways back, he was, lying on the
ground, resting against a tree, maybe with his camo hat pulled forward over his eyes. And I approached
him, and told him it was time to leave. He nudged up his hat, looked up at me,
and said, “Are you sure?” Are you sure you don’t need me anymore? Are you sure
it’s safe to go out into the fields? Are you sure that my work at protecting
you is done?
Yes.  Yes, soldier, I am sure.
And so, we both walked out, tromping through the forest into
the sunlight of the field, and I held onto his arm, like an old friend, because
in essence, he was. And we feel kindly toward each other – even though yes,
he’s attempted to kill me, that was his only way of ensuring my safety.
We walked up to the hatch, and I saluted him, and he saluted me, and in real life on the BART train, I got a little emotional at it, at this
goodbye, and down he went, through the grassy hatch, which closed, and sprouted a flower, or perhaps flowers were laid upon it, like a memorial.
But. After this? You wanna know what I did? I went
CARTWHEELING through that forest!! I began to run and jump and sing and yell
and cartwheel all throughout that fucking forest. It was free. It was clear.
This was a safe place for me again. Or perhaps for the first time.
I was free.
Sure, perhaps it will take some getting used to, this
walking out into the sunshine, this taking the reins of my own life, this
“owning voice” thing. But, clearing out my psyche and my heart of obsolete
warriors feels like an incredible start. And after years of toeing the line,
stepping up to it and back away, don’t get too close, Perhaps now. Perhaps NOW,
I get to cross it, in cartwheels.
Amen. 

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