Sun, Sea & Circles

It would be remiss of me to try and write a post that covers all that I learned in my two weeks on a remote part of a Greek island with Duende Theatre Company.  Partly because I think it will be a while before I have even begun to unpack it all and also because, even if I could, it wouldn’t be the sort of thing I could squeeze into one neat little post for a Sunday morning. Still, I would like to attempt to write something of the experience, even if it’s just to feel my fingers on the keyboard for a bit, so here goes.Mountains Photo

First of all a confession. I had made a plan before I went out there.  Not overtly,  but subconsciously I had a little protection plan in place.  It went something like this:  knowing something of what the structure would be like after spending a week in France doing the same work I knew that we would be training during the day and then in the evening there would be a performance section.  This was a little troublesome for me as someone who had essentially fallen out with performing many years ago. In France I literally forced myself to do it because a part of me was  chasing some notion that I might be able to go down that road still.  Having come to terms with the fact that this idea, lovely and romantic as it is and I do love a good bit of romance, it is nevertheless entirely unpractical given my current life circumstances.  I’ve spent a long time fighting my life, I am trying to give it up, it’s not good for you.  So this time I had let myself off the performing hook before I even stepped on the plane.  I didn’t need to do it. I am not a performer so there. Let everyone else get up, I am signing up for the stress free life thanks.

So lesson number one. These kinds of protection plans are pointless. Understandable,  but pointless. They imagine that you know what a thing is going to look like before you’ve actually seen it.  It’s like my kids endlessly refusing to try anything that isn’t covered in breadcrumbs.  They don’t know what it’s going to taste like but in their heads they KNOW they don’t like it.  I was doing the equivalent of refusing good food because it wasn’t a chicken nugget.

I do this a lot, plan, prepare, layer up the protection.  Factor 50 all the way.  Except it might not even be sunny so it’s a bit pointless. And you don’t get a tan (I didn’t actually get a tan, I could have been in Forfar for two weeks for all you can tell).  Over the course of the two weeks I felt the start of things unlocking in my body and one of the biggest things was fear.  I am riddled with the damn stuff.  I understand why it is there, there are good reasons. Those reasons are also no longer relevant. I am not in those spaces, places, or with those people anymore.  Logic tells me so.  But the body holds onto things regardless, it likes the familiar even if that familiar is a bucket load of fear.  Some of that started to shift towards the end of my time in Fara which was really exciting. It’s not something I ever imagined I would really begin to taste again. Even more exciting was that as fear started to shift so did his sister, shame.

The work we did was very much built on the foundation of acceptance, of others and of the self. If this sounds wishy washy I can assure you it’s not. It’s hard as bloody nails this stuff. It’s like looking at yourself in the mirror, naked, with strip lighting.  Not all that pretty. Until it is. And it was apt that we were by the sea because it was very much a process of ebb and flow between I love you all, I love me yay…oh god there I am in the mirror with strip lighting, please, make it stop.   And shame is such a sneaky little shit.  She dresses herself up so you can hardly recognise her, she looks like you, the real you, the you that you are trying to hide from the world. Except she’s not really you, she’s not even an echo. She’s just an illusion, a very good one, but an illusion none the less. And if I have anything bigger in my body than fear then it is shame in her fancy pants doing a dance and singing shitty songs about all the ways I am entirely wretched.

I remember very clearly the moment I stopped being able to get up in front of people. It was at drama school, after some horrible incident and there were so many that I can’t actually recall which horrible incident tipped the balance for me but we had a visiting teacher working with us on trust (the idea of trust in that place  was a bit like asking the child catcher to deliver your baby) and one day I could do the exercises and the next day I absolutely could not.  My body just refused. Even after I left that place I found getting up in front of people to full of ghosts, I would literally sweat my way through productions because I was so sure that people could see things about me that I didn’t want them to see. That they could see shame in her fancy pants singing those shitty songs.  That they would look at me and they would know who I really was, the things I had done, the things I had done to me. It was safer to stop.  Kinder.

So of course shame was out in force in Fara.  She was having a blast.  And the work was full of joy but joy doesn’t always mean happy. Some days were fucking hard.  I mean painfully so. Somedays I wanted to run into the sea and never come out. I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who had those moments. And yet, and yet, you never know what a thing is going to taste like until you put it on your tongue.  Somehow, despite the shit ton of baggage I have been lugging around with me for years now,  I found something else in my time at Fara. Something that settled in the last two days, a kind of peace or safety. I began to feel moments of being in front of people without fear, without shame, without worrying that they might see me. Not because they couldn’t, but because they could. They could and it was fine. I have learned, as so many of us have, that people can do real, long lasting damage to you. But the opposite is also true.  People can help you heal, even if they don’t know they are doing it. For the first time in years I got to feel safe in my own skin and it was only possible because of the work and because of the people I was working with.

A lot of the work we did in Fara involves a ball game that is done in a circle and on the last day we were encourage to take the circle home with us. I didn’t manage this after France but this time, yes.  I have it. I have it and I am keeping it close.

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