Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Do You Believe?

"Do you believe what they say about 2012?" she asked suddenly, in not quite a whisper.  She had just finished playing through a familiar tune on the piano we had learned together only minutes before.

"What do they say?" I ask.  I can halfway sense what's in her head and heart.

"That... it's the end of the world?"

I search her small face -- no trace of fear there, only tiny glittering ghost-wisp question marks.  "Hmm, I've heard of that," I say.  "What do you think?"

"Well, I don't think so.  I saw a movie..." and she describes all the natural disasters the film so vividly paints.  The scenes etched in her memory are poignant and meaningful given what I know she's already endured in her young life.  "But no," she concludes, "I don't think it's the end."

I believe her decision to not believe.

Extra flexibility is required to fully pivot for a good view of all the ways my own beliefs have been challenged, my stories tested, this past year.

Across the sea of retrospect, I spy:  The various literal and figurative dimly lit stages that threw my thoughts and feelings about celebrity and self-worth directly into spotlight glare.  My multicolored-snake-rope thoughts about creativity and relationship and their ability to intertwine without strangling each other.  How much bigger movement, more nourishing fuel, and increasingly voluminous light my aging body, mind and spirit need to thrive.

My re-drawing boundaries when they are again unwittingly crossed and building them out of a different medium or neatly packing them up to take with me when I exit.  Walking the crunchy undulating sandy path of truth alongside heavy discomfort and volatility, and seeing what small air-starved naked creature toddles out from between.

How I've brilliantly re-colored the magnetic energy of money and funneled it both toward and away.  Questioning why I questioned whether I really need a vibrant, beautiful calendar / house in which to hold all my crucial appointments and to birth-chart my life work.

And in what direction my heart pulls hard and how it matters less if that trajectory is logical, practical, and sustainable.  What and where my wild childhood abandon was, when it left, and my semi-shock at it's insistent return.  What is spewed and what is left unsaid.  How continual digging only leaves scars.

What expectations I've dramatically thrown into artificial and pure-true light, and how they've either grown into both high-arching beyond-control jungles or lay dormant in desiccated white picket plots.

I actually celebrate the human capacity to fabricate, in the name of both growth and resistance of, a thoroughly complex and elaborate everyday life around a simple but fully-believed story.

The extent to which we manipulate our surroundings, the lengths we go to convince ourselves and others of our reality, and the way we invent patterns of thought and behavior that support this story scream of our immense and innate creative potential.  

What do we choose to do with what we believe? An amazing amount of time, energy, and power goes into building the world (s)he / you / I live in -- just look at this incredible system, this intricate protective framework all spindly and giant and spread-eagled over the itty buried sleeping treasure whose name, color, texture, and makeup we forgot long ago!

"I don't know how..."
"I can't..."
"It's impossible to..."
"It doesn't work..."
"I've already tried..."
"I could never..."  

Such powerful building blocks, clobbery concrete foundation squares upon which we build a precariously leaning tower that we're incessantly scrambling to prop up.

How rich the deconstruction can be, how powerful to step aside as it topples, how sudden and frantic the manic digging to uncover the small kernel of truth singing out for a bit of warmth and light.

She leaned in a little closer to hear me say, "I believe that you and I have a lot of important and special things to do, and be, in the coming year."  She nods.  I briefly mention my affection for even-numbered years.  "I was born in 2000," she beams.

Later, at the door, I exclaim in my sincerely exuberant way, "I'm SO excited to see you again -- next year!"

"And it's even-numbered," she smiles.

I believe in a Happy Healthy Blooming Unfurling 2012, for you.
And in the words of Maurice Sendak:  "... live your life, live your life, live your life."

Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
The exploding-bubble Surgeon and the scissor-soaring Cruel (St. Vincent)

The year's popular posts (wait, do you have one that's not listed below? Post it in the comments!):
Maybe You're  a Harpist All Over the Beastie Boys
Dear Creative Work
Sense of Place
A Night in the Life
What IS Performance?

Trista's newsletter -- read the current edition here
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Coaching Opportunities

Friday, December 02, 2011

What IS Performance?

**For an entire month this Fall (2011), Deborah Henson-Conant and I threw ourselves into a joint traveling adventure of performances, workshops, and the ongoing development / implementation of fantastical ideas and dreams.**

And so, what IS performance, really? We'll peer into the window of my own experience, conveniently captured in this hardly-vampy video.

Here's the setup:  It's the last performance of the DHC Fall Tour 2011.  For an entire month (or more) we had been talking about playing on stage together and disagreeing about the reasons why it wasn't happening.  In classic uncomfortable 180-degree style, rebelling against our own resistance, we threw this not-quite-duet together just minutes before the show was scheduled to start.  DHC showed me the form, the parts she wanted me to play, and areas open for improvisation.

We are wearing outfits that I don't normally choose for myself and that DHC chooses for herself all the time -- about which she commented a few weeks earlier, "Good thing we don't get tired of seeing each other in the same thing every night..."

We are tired and had just finished building our own sound system out of equipment we had in the over-packed van, due to miscommunication about what the venue could provide.  I had spent many tens of minutes behind the video camera documenting this process and wondering whether it was for learning purposes or because we were gathering evidence for a Just-in-Case we might file down the road.  I had yet to slam together / sacrilegiously transform a sacred platform into our product table in all its glittery well-organized glory.  In short, in many ways I was completely unprepared to do this.  This is my least favorite way to perform, or really, do anything.

In high boots and tights that I now see aren't true black, I'm crouching at the harp stand because I frankly had never officially played an electric harp before, and playing it at an uncomfortable height was less of a liability than my actually wearing it.  Both string tension and the "voice" of the electric harp are unlike that of a pedal harp -- this requires in-the-moment readjustment of technique and reevaluation of engagement with the instrument (think of an acoustic vs. an electric guitar).  All this is to say, I had no idea what I was doing, feeling very vulnerable, on an instrument foreign to me, playing music that just barely made sense, as the closing piece for someone else's show.

Explaining the setup is not to sell you on why you should see this as a remarkable performance.  Because in many ways it's not, and while I treasure honesty -- Exhibit A, the last post -- whether it is or isn't is beside the point.

The point is that it happened, because we grabbed at and stepped into the opportunity to try a Big Something.  We could either let that slip by, or seize it in a myriad of semi-reluctant ways.  The mere act of doing it became more important than how.  That's not to say the "how" didn't in some way matter -- witness the video edit punches where both DHC and I cut out parts we declared were uninteresting or unacceptable and didn't want the rest of the world to have access to indefinitely.

This was imperfect action.  Messy, uncomfortable, and also oddly enlightening, liberating.  Two tired harpists unsure of an outcome and going for it anyway.

This was living out exactly what we were presenting in workshops during the tour:  Navigating the treacherous and oft-visited waters of Perfection and recognizing the futility of expecting, waiting, and striving for it.  Exploring how structure frees rather than limits you, musically and beyond.  Letting your life experiences show up on stage and disabling the old and out-of-date stories that can otherwise sabotage your experience.  Living in the moment and having that be enough.  Committing to your authentic self when you feel anything but -- "don't do more, hide less" (Karen Montanaro quote, from the Barn experience).

Would we have done that performance differently? Yes! And! No! The point is we do not even know what Yes and No are until we step into the experience.  Live it, in the moment, imperfectly.

And what happened after? We splayed all the travel food on the table we had thus far hoarded to replicate a massive congratulatory feast, then quickly tired of that and went on a slow search for frozen Snickers bars.  DHC edited out parts of the video we didn't like as we randomly commented and cursed about what was and wasn't happening in it.  We sat through late night tension about whose computer housed what and the proper way to affix receipts to larger pieces of paper.  We wrestled with illogically designed alarm clocks.  Real life.  The stuff that happens before, after, and during a performance.

Performance is not about editing life / reality OUT.  It's about letting it IN.

DHC will be in Atlanta on Sunday, December 4 to share with you both the broader and more detailed elements of what we experienced above, using the Blues.  I will be there a day later, but that's fodder for another post.  Will you step up and into the unknown, to learn about parts of yourself you didn't know were there, and other parts you know damn well you are both aching for, and hiding from? Click here to learn more and register for the Atlanta workshop.

Congratulations for the brave yes-and-no way you will choose to hide less today.
Another imperfect post, accompanied by:
Joy to the World  (Pink Martini)
Trista's newsletter
Get notified of posts to this blog
Calendar of December 2011 performances
Other tour posts (in non-chronological order):
Prepared or Paranoid?
Firsts -- How the Tour Began
Sense of Place
Opportunities to explore who you are, with your music, unconventionally, using principles above, with me -- visit the website / email.