Sometimes in life, you have dreams that you chew on only in thought form. They make your heart sing as the “What ifs…?” arise within you, but somehow these dreams never see the light of day.
Last night, I saw what happens when a dream is realized. Our first show, which included three really great sets that raise bars and an audience ready for anything, made for a magical evening where all of my heart’s desires were playing out before me. To be surrounded by loving, supportive friends and strangers, who in that intimacy of a show become friends, is one of the greatest dreams I could ever realize. It was the essence of what makes me love improv so much. To be able to take everyone in the room on a ride that no one else has ever been on and no one else will ever see again is a tremendous gift.
Today I ride the wave of joy.
Realize your dream.
I spent Halloween helping friends pass out candy in their neighborhood. It was a blast seeing all of the kids, young and old, dressed in their costumes.
My favorite kids were the ones who had the ritual down. March up to the door, boldly announce “Trick or Treat” and receive their goods. Others would come to the door, extend their pillowcase-filled hands and simply imply that you needed to drop something in. Regardless of what kind of kid was in front of me, their behavior always elicited an immediate response based on how they interacted with me in that moment. It hit me this morning that this was a perfect example of what I teach.
I am easily excitable and would shock most kids by blurting out whatever reaction their costume inspired. If it were a little girl dressed as a princess, I may have delicately said, “Oh, you are a beautiful princess! Here’s your candy, Princess.” and the little girl would smile shyly, take her candy and go, as if delighted that someone acknowledged who she truly feels she is. When a little boy dressed as a boxer came by for the second or third time, I would excitedly say, “Wow! You’re an awesome boxer!” Being all of about four years old, he would proudly say “Thank you!” and walk off with a little more confidence each time. I believe in politeness, so when older kids would crowd in front of the little ones who were slower than they were in getting up the stairs, I wouldn’t say a word to them, fighting back the intense urge to yell to correct their behavior, but would proceed to give them the smallest piece of candy I could find.
We react to our surroundings constantly. Most of the time, we are unaware of how we react because usually we feel suffering surrounding our internal story of “They did this to me!” If we are to become better improvisers, not to mention better people, we must become more aware of our internal goings-on, to be witness of our actions. We are mammals who react with instincts. When we feel we are being hurt, it is in our nature to want to return the hurt. When we feel comforted, we want to comfort.
Unlike other mammals, we have the ability to be aware of what we’re feeling, to define what feeling it is, and witness how we are responding to it. If our response paints us into our usual corner which causes more suffering, perhaps next time we feel that same emotion, we change our response. Perhaps we allow the suffering subconsciously, so as to continue a pattern we aren’t sure how to get out of. Either way, we are ultimately in control, on stage and off, to be aware of how we’re being affected by our surroundings so that we may respond.
At no time did I ever see a costume-clad youngster and think, “I’ll say _____ to them. They’ll think this is funny!” I simply went with my gut. This is what we strive for on stage.
How are you responding to what you cause and what is affecting you today?
No need to change it, simply be aware of it.
This is a must-watch for anyone who is familiar with Del and his creation, the Harold. For the newer generation of improvisers, it is fascinating to hear him talk about the inception of the Harold, his dislike of the name, and what his goals are for improv actors within the piece.
Have you ever been so out of control, you don’t even know who you are anymore? If you answer no, please forgive me, but I’m calling you on it.
There are times in our lives when we get so far away from who we truly are that we lose control. Demands of work, family, friends, our own inner dialogue, etc., all take part in leading us down a path of suffering and isolation.
There is hope. There’s always hope.
Simply seeing our current reality for what it is is the necessary first step toward change. By being able to see the truth, we are able to assess a plan of steps that will lead us back home. Back to self.
Yes, there have been times where I’ve disowned someone for the behaviors they’ve displayed and I know I’ve been treated the same by others. That is the natural knee-jerk reaction we have as humans to this kind of behavior. It’s simply in our primal wiring.
However, what does it take to show compassion? For as much as I may have disowned, it was painful to feel abandoned. What it took for me to find my way home was compassion for self. Without filling myself up first, I cannot look to the outside world and expect the same in return.
I now see that the compassion I allow to breed within myself is the same compassion that radiates and mirrors back to me from the outside. My choice to be the change I want to see has been the most powerful transformation I could have ever achieved. I honor your place on this journey and ask this of you as well as of myself:
Where is your compassion today?
I see the same behavior on stage, in audiences among improvisers and I will admit, within myself. We are critical of the shows we are watching and begin to radiate that same disowning energy. We let our ego drive us and believe its rants that we are better than those other people.
The truth is, we are the same. We all soar and fall brilliantly. Your joy is mine and your sorrow I share as well. It is my hope that we will all learn to come together to accept each other at the level of improviser and human we are in this moment. For it is all we truly have.