Don’t Explain, Don’t Complain

Almost two decades ago, my first spiritual mentor came into my life. A beautiful soul, she crossed my path suddenly and very coincidentally. In retrospect, I am sure our meeting was God’s handiwork, because it happened soon after I began seeking Grace.

At the onset of my quest, although I could almost taste what I sought, I did not yet fully understand what Grace even meant. As it turns out, it is so much more than I had thought. Yes, it is a relationship with God, as I believed it was; salvation even. Beyond that, it is all that you are; it is personal freedom, strength in vulnerability and the capacity to stand true and unwavering as your very best self at a given time. It is also “all that you simply cannot manage to be, even though you might like to, at a said given time.” Some might express the last sentence as “all that you are not,” but I prefer my own understanding.

One of the first things I remember discussing with this spiritual guide was that, “Ideally we want to get to a place in our lives where we don’t feel a need either to Explain or Complain.” The “Not having to explain” part, because if we stay true to trying to do the next right thing in our lives, we won’t have to prove anything to anyone. The “not complaining,” because doing so will just keep us stuck in our ego and that, as I have learned through very painful life lessons, will simply never do.

Whilst traveling a route towards God’s favor, I have done my best to honor many along the way with friendship. In learning to do so, as often as I have been able to remember, I’ve used this “Don’t Explain, Don’t Complain” mantra and it has been priceless. In the midst, I have received precious gifts of time and loving kindness and have offered the same in return. However, it is at times impossible to fulfill the needs of others or even to communicate fully why we are unable to. Work stuff takes a little longer than usual or the car has to go into the shop. The cat gets out or a neighbor distracts with a request to borrow sugar. Someone asks for help, or my husband wants to spend time; a writing deadline looms or a migraine hits.

When these things happen, these tugs, these ways that take me away from what I might really want to be doing in order to do what needs to be done, life can start to feel awfully lifey. Through it all though, I still need never explain nor complain. What I must do, is simply that which is immediately pressing in front of me in the very best way I can.

When living in this simple “Don’t complain, don’t explain” mantra, life has the potential to be grand. No, it’s not as simple as it sounds, not exactly, but it really does work as long as it’s basis is on trusting those you have relationships with to know who you are at your core; to know that you would never intentionally hurt them with what they perceive as your wrong.

When I find myself tempted to give a lengthy dissertation of why I didn’t or couldn’t or can’t, I have to stop and remind myself that getting fearfully embroiled in having to explain what is sometimes unexplainable is unnecessary, especially if my connection to God is intact. Those sometimes pulls, the yanks towards the need to be absolutely certain that others understand the why’s and what’s of my decisions can be let go if I remember that those why’s and what’s don’t really matter as long as God and I know the reasons.

In the big picture of life, what others think about my actions or inactions need have no bearing on my reality. Just as others have no idea what fully goes on in my total day to day, I have no idea what goes on in theirs. There are so many tugs, twists and turns in one twenty-four hour period that to try to be all that we desire to or to explain every situation encountered is a daunting and sometimes seemingly impossible task.

And so, as that long ago mentor also told me, I must trust that when I ask God each morning to guide me to His will, that what he puts in front of me is right and true, even when it changes or deviates from what I had planned. I can be firm in my choices, including re-choosing, even when those choices feel slightly uncomfortable, and do my very best to remember that He alone can judge; though he never even will, because He loves me so. How cool is that!

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INTEGRITORIOUS

I am a word person, always have been, always will be. Words excite and inspire me. They give voice to what I think and feel, to what I hope for, to what I know and to what I want to know. They create the stories I have written and the quotes I have gathered in a collection started over forty years ago. Words form the expressions that soothe and comfort me, and the ones that give me regular inspiration.

As a nine-year-old girl, I often read the dictionary, “I know, I know, people don’t do that!” Well, I confess, I did and even though I know the meaning of many “big” words, I usually go with the simpler choice over the more complicated one. This, because I want my writing and speaking to be easily understood. I never want anyone to get lost in my words. That would be such a shame.

I have never played Words with Friends and although it seems so totally “up my alley,” my regular word game is the basic Jumble in the local newspaper. Typically, I unscramble all five words within my first sip of coffee, and although the only friends involved in the routine are the cartoon character ones in the final puzzle, this unscrambling somehow connects me. It gives me an early morning moment of simple accomplishment.

Words gather my thoughts. One such thought is, “I wonder what it would be like to come up with an original one? How cool would that be?

Okay, so, I may have one:

INTEGRITORIOUS – the act of living an amazingly openhearted, honest life in which you are willing to hold secrets sacred, value others, have your peeps backs and strive not only to be your best self, but to help those you love strive to be their very best as well; A decision to be courageous enough to be who you are meant to be and to honor others doing the same; An existence in which you pass hope back and forth regularly and you work faithfully towards gratitude in the present and for the future, not just for you but for those you encounter in your daily travels.

This word came up one day a while ago in the midst of a conversation with my good friend Jackie. It arose as we were summing up the type of women and friends we have decided to be. We came up with it together, but the thing about being INTEGRITORIOUS is that it is not even about who came up with it or gets the credit. The point is only that we put this word out there and get this style of living revolutionized!

Imagine having friendships where you are completely honest, where you tell each other the whole truth, not just the comfortable parts, because you trust in that friend. Does it not sound wonderful to be in relationships in which you talk about your feelings, what you really think, what you hope and what you fear? The kind of friendships that are less about what “Janie” did or what “Suzy” has or doesn’t have, and more about ideas and dreams for the future.

What a gift to decide to remind one another that the road ahead of each of us contains limitless growth and that our past lessons are there serving to help keep our hearts open to the lode of joy and potential that awaits us. How amazing to live in faith, trusting in an energy source that wants the best for each of us. Imagine tapping into that source every day together. Imagine being integritorious.

If you start where your feet are now, and decide to live in an integritorious way, you will learn to love in ways you never imagined were possible. You will not put down but instead build up – yourself, your foundation and those around you. You will shine and watch others sparkle too and all the while you do, you will realize how much more beautiful light is when it catches other light.

The principle Integritorious, this word that I hope catches fire at least in your heart if never in any dictionary, can serve as a compass. It can be a directional guide not of east, west, north or south, but of grace, light, brotherly love, service, strength and vulnerability. It will keep us on a course for living that serves and benefits and does not tear down or destroy.

I hope you will stand with us, with my friend and I and so many others, who are striving in our lives to do what is right, who are connecting each other to our other each other’s, because we have decided to believe that we can trust in outcomes. We are including and not excluding because this inclusion is the only way to go, to be.

Integritorious just might be the sexiest word I have ever heard. Imagine standing willing to be authentic enough to be, do and say exactly what is necessary to take care of yourself in a given moment, and to actually trust that you have staying power within the moment that follows the first given one? Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap! I am in. I am so totally in. I am ready to be integritorious and so utterly hope that you are too! xoxo

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(Note: To the best of my ability integritorious is not currently a word found in any dictionary. I searched, after my friend and I had our light bulb moment,but if you know otherwise,”cool!” – Please feel free to respond to this post. Whether we are late to the party or not, I absolutely Love this word!)

 

 

What I “Think” is a Choice

It has been ages since I have written in this blog, so it feels as if I am meeting an old friend for coffee this morning. I really miss opening one of these blank templates to “have at it,” but I have been so busy with “work writing” that “play writing” and Grace Paid Forward have gone on a back burner. Being here now, as a relaxing creative process, before editing a chapter for work, I have absolutely no idea what words will come from this typing, but I know I have to take some time once in awhile for stream of consciousness writing…

Here goes…

I was invited to be part of a creative book group by some friends recently. As part of the commitment we each made to the group, we agreed to homework assignments between our meetings. One of these assignments was to pay attention to our thoughts, our “brain chatter,” over a two week period and make a note of what came up for us. It was amazing to see how often my response to what I found was, “Who knew?”

I spent many years believing that I was powerless over the thoughts that entered my head. For a long time I was unaware that I had a choice over whether to let them stay or make them go, so it was exhilarating with this “homework” to note how often, these days, I caught myself thinking beautiful, joyful thoughts. It seems so odd now, to remember how I used to live and how much I let whatever thought popped into my head stay there and dictate my mood. But, after many years of searching for ways to find Zen, today I live in the awareness that although I am relatively powerless over the first thought that comes to mind, I can certainly decide what the second one will be.

The more I have worked on running my automatic brain chatter through a quasi filter, cleaning up the first one so that the next is a little fresher/kinder/purer/more loving, the more my defaults have changed. It’s as if a tarmac marshal has moved into my head and is waving wands at my thoughts as they land on the runway of my brain, guiding them away from danger and re-directing them to safe parking. This re-routing is very effective, and although I have been practicing it for ages, I might not have noticed how well it was working in my life had I not done this book group exercise.

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Artwork by Rebecca Booth

Going to love and light, to gratitude and joy, is a habit that I live in. This habit has stemmed from years wherein I have made a choice consistently, over and over, day in and day out to think positive thoughts. It has resulted from my internal marshal’s consistent re-direction and it has required practice, lots and lots of practice. I am not suggesting that dark thoughts never present themselves automatically to me, but when they do, I remember that I can catch them after they initially land, use my figurative self illuminating wands and send them in another direction. As impossibly simple as it sounds, especially since I never knew I had a choice over what went on “upstairs,” what I think is now a decision. Period.

And my first thought after typing that last sentence is “How on earth could I have wasted so much time and energy thinking thoughts that did not serve me in the past?”. My second thought is, “Going forward, I think I will keep choosing amazing thoughts!”

 

Many Lives, Many Moments

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Have you ever met someone and felt an instant connection? One that seemed to go beyond the moment and circumstance? Has there been a time where you felt drawn to a person, or put off by one, in a way you simply couldn’t understand? Is there anyone that you trust so utterly, that it seems as if you knew them before this life, in some other place or time?

For me, “yes, to all three!”

I have quickly been both pulled towards and turned off by other’s energy fields often. Sometimes, what I sense is full of light and love, while at others it is extremely standoffish, but always I feel it. And the determination I make, using the force they are often unaware of giving off, typically happens within the first few minutes of meeting them. There is an unconscious, yet very aware decision. A moment when my spirit opts either to proceed or pull back, when it feels absolute comfort or “danger, Will Robinson. And this choice, at least for me, is a direct result of all the lessons and soul to soul exchanges experienced over all of my lifetimes, culminating in this one.

I know as I write, that it’s a risk to put this “out there.” Lifetimes? Really? As if we have more than one. I can hear the skeptics now, but “Yes, lifetimes.” And I am utterly comfortable expressing this, especially since I have seen more than one of my own past lives through three encounters with the awesome Dr. Brian Weiss. The most recent was last weekend at a workshop in Ft. Lauderdale.

It had been a decade since I’d been in his energy field and undergone a regression. I was excited and hopeful that I would “go back” once again, and was curious about where and when a past life memory might take me if I did.

As it turns out, the first experience was intense. I “came to” with tears streaming down my face. Tears of joy and gratitude, because I’d visualized a life with my “today” husband and four grown children. In fact, between us, in the here and now, we have three. The scene took place in the twentieth century, and not the sixteenth as my last regression years ago had. In the moment I awoke to Weiss’ count, I was holding my husband’s hand feeling completely sure and comfortable. Totally nurtured and absolutely loved, I “awoke” with an overwhelming feeling of security. With the utter validation that all is right and good in my world today, in this life.

The next experience was an exercise we were asked to do with a stranger. We were to turn to someone in the audience and borrow an object from them, something they’d owned for a long time, to draw a sense of energy from it. The man next to me gave me his watch, saying that it’s been on his wrist for years. As I held it, and entered a meditative state with Weiss’ direction, I found myself seeing pieces of this man’s life. I couldn’t explain how or why I was envisioning these things, but when I shared them later, the exchange was incredible. I was nervous to express what I saw, afraid that none of it would make sense and that I’d simply willed myself to see something. I couldn’t explain any of it, but decided to simply convey what came to me.

“I saw a very shy little boy with an older woman. He was clinging to her and didn’t want her to leave. It was obvious they were very close as she kissed away his tears.” “I saw a man jogging in a gray sweatshirt. I saw him wearing a white coat, a doctor’s coat. He was teaching other doctor’s something.” “Then, I saw a funeral and a casket. He is completely broken up, but he is trying to be a “rock” for everyone.” “I am a doctor,” he responded, smiling sheepishly. Our eyes connected and both of us were taken aback. “In my regression earlier, I was at the first day of kindergarten crying. My mom was holding me because I was too shy to stay there without her. I was terrified.” He continued, “We, my wife and I, are here today to try and process our grief over losing our son last year. It has been an incredibly difficult time for us.” His face and demeanor softened as he spoke, as he opened up to me. He seemed surprised at what he was sharing with a stranger, but I could tell somehow that it was helping him.

So, what does it mean? This moment shared of energy exchange? And how could it happen that I saw these things, simply by holding a person’s watch? I don’t understand it, but I trust it.

After the workshop, we turned to each other to say goodbye. His wife smiled and thanked me. I understood and thanked them too. In that instant, when I saw her face, I felt compelled to give them something to remember the experience. I could tell they had been moved by it. I pulled a large coin from my purse, a medallion with roman numerals on it. “I want to give you something,” I said as I handed it to her. “You may not understand this ‘coin,’ but it represents a whole lot of moments of grace and support, of fellowship and energy for me over many years. I’d love you to have it.”

Tears streamed down her face. “I know exactly what this is and you have no idea how special it is to me. Our thirty year old daughter was sober for a long time, but she is struggling again and we are very worried about her. It’s been such a tough year for our family and so, I will treasure this.” And with that, we went our separate ways.

And I knew that the day’s exchange, that small moment of shared energy within the universe was supposed to unfold. That encounter of hope and light between three souls that although not fully understood, was sure to stay with them for a long time to come.

I am grateful for the reminder that it is all, all of it, about energy. About paying attention to the energy fields around me, the ones that I am drawn to and the ones I am not. About using my own energy for love and even to make a difference, even if only for a moment. I know that it is about saying “yes” to the energy of possibility and “No” to energy that doesn’t feel quite right. About warding off what takes and doesn’t honor. And I pray daily to be reminded that all of the energy around me is here to offer something. Some lesson to be learned from paying attention to it.

For today, I will look for the positive and beautiful that is all around me. I will feel it’s current, tap into it allowing it to draw me in and hope to pay it forward. It is there waiting to be shared.

As for my past lives, I look forward to learning more about them, all of them.

FALLING IN AUTUMN

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This autumn as I think about the golden canvases of foliage I am missing up north, of the crisp air above all the apple orchards and pumpkin patches I have picked from, I feel melancholy. I sense that I am losing my colors like the trees all will. I feel like I am falling, well sort of.

In trying to figure out the reasons that I feel this way, it occurs to me that it’s because I am in a time of letting go. Letting go to make room for what is to come. The fall season is a time of trees shedding their leaves, even though they are beautiful, to get ready for the next season.

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And I wonder if perhaps I can just do what the trees do. Ready or not, right here, right now, Let go. Discard any worry that I don’t really fit in sometimes. Shed any doubt that there is something wrong with me when I am not invited. Drop a recent belief that just because people move on, I never mattered to them.

For today, perhaps I can allow the occasional fears to fall away. Let them drop and trust that it is simply time to lose another layer that is no longer necessary as protection against the elements of my humanness.

I am drawn to thoughts of how autumn comes in so spectacularly and goes out so barren. This magnificent season of letting go leads me to wonder. How do trees allow the transformation so gracefully, from lush and glorious to bare and exposed? They stand, strong and tall, never wavering, as one by one their leaves fall, showing their branches to the world. I wish I could let go like they do. So gracefully.

I suppose I can try. I guess, like all the trees, I can get ready for what comes next. I can believe that it is the right time to allow more to shed. Perhaps there is no need for sadness as things come and go. No reason for self doubt or for fear that the more I expose myself, the less I will be “part of.” Maybe all I need to do is trust a divine process that I can’t see and to remember that the trees, in bloom or not, never move. They stay right where they are among other trees. Sure.

I don’t suppose that as golden shapes fall from its branches, a tree spends time in sadness around what it is losing. I imagine it knows that next year, there will be more and different shades that will grace its limbs. There is no calling out to their dear colors, “No, please don’t go yet. I’m not ready. I haven’t fully processed all I needed to about you yet. And I love you.”

I think they just fall because it is time. They probably need to relax after all their photosynthesizing. Maybe they just want to rest. And as the greens and reds and yellows gather on the ground below, awaiting what comes next for them, there is a knowing up above. A new season is sure to come and with it will be more and different hues to take their place.

What a gift of trusting that nature enjoys. I want to trust like this. To believe in the plan as it unfolds, instead of realizing later that it did so perfectly. I know that if I just stand still and allow the falling off to happen, the release of feelings and people and places, there will be more to reveal itself down the road. Yes, of course there will, because there always is. So today I will ask the universe and all its’ Glory for help in letting go of what I know is wanting to leave, so that my branches can be open to all the lovely colors that will come next.

I will choose to stand tall wherever I am called to today. No matter what. I will wait, arms outstretched, with a sense of readiness and joy. I will know that the next burst of color will reveal itself, just as the glory of autumn leaves always does after summer. In the meantime, I will do my best to stand, unwavering, and trust that all is right and good in my world no matter what the season. And I will remember that bright and full or somber and bare, God is caring for me through all of it.

WRITING BIG GIRL STYLE

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Today’s local newspaper had an article about how cursive writing in grammar school seems to be going by the wayside. Oh kids, say it isn’t so! You have no idea what you are missing!

I hate to think that young students won’t get to experience the same camaraderie I shared in penmanship class back in 2nd grade. Like soldiers in the trenches, my classmates and I sat, ammunition ready, when the little hand was on the ten and the big hand was on the twelve. Armed with sharpened No. 2 pencils and black and white marble notebooks, we went to battle every morning, ferociously attacking one letter at a time in the hopes that we might someday be able to write in cursive (or dare I say “script”) the way our beloved teacher, Sister Angela, could.

Wearing a mysterious black and white habit (was it coincidence that our notebooks were the same color), Sister Angela stood in front of the class. Behind her, facing out at us, was a huge blackboard filled with gorgeous swirls and curves which created the sampling of letters, words and sentences she wanted us to try to copy during class that day. Every one of her letters, impeccably spaced, met up with the next, to form a perfectly even, balanced word. There was something both soothing and exciting about the precision of it all and I really wanted to know how to do that.

We all worked as hard as we could, tiny beads of perspiration shining on our young foreheads, to re-create the chalked words before us. I think we did so because we believed that once we mastered this type of grown-up writing we would sort of be grown-up. Well, at least that’s what I thought. But, try as I might, even with my tongue habitually peeking outside my lips to rest steadily on the right side of my cheek in concentration, I never could quite get it. (I have long since mastered the swirls and curves, and even created a few original twists to them over the years.)

Every night at home, in the safety of the non-compliant spiral notebook my mother had bought me, I’d practice my squiggles.  I’d sit at the dining room table and pretend I was filling the pages with beautifully written letters and documents, instead of what actually resembled a whole bunch of EKG readings.  I kept on trying though, so that the next morning at school I might finally get a shiny gold or silver star on the top of one of my pages.

I can picture my penmanship composition book right now. The cover resembled a slab of marble and was attached to the pages by woven thread.  Every once in awhile, I found myself wanting to pull at a piece of that thread to see what would happen.  And when I finally did one day, not realizing that it was binding the book together, the pages started tearing out one by one and I had to get a new book.  Anyway, there were five or six groupings on each page. Each one had two solid lines, one above the other, with a dashed line in between. The idea was that lower case letters were to stay below the dotted line, but upper case ones and special letters with tops like b, d, f, h, k, l, and t could sneak above it. But, even though they could, their tops were only allowed to rise up as far as the solid border allowed.  You had to stay within the lines of course.

Day after day we practiced. Some letters were easier than others, but I remember Q and Z as being especially brutal. No matter what, we were never allowed to erase our mistakes, even though we wrote in pencil. I really hated that, because that meant that Sister Angela was privy to my every misstep. She would be able to see every dare of my pencil to sneak outside the lines. I remember once, I tried to secretly erase a mistake, but the mess the eraser shavings were leaving on the page made it just too obvious. Since I didn’t want to get in trouble or go to hell, I never did that again.

Ah, earning gold stars and writing between the lines. Somehow, doing all of those exercises helped me to learn how “not” to need the stars as I grew up. They gave me courage to risk coloring outside the lines when it would serve me later. There was something truly profound about mastering these basics back then, something that reached far beyond learning how to write in cursive. Don’t schools these days think children need those lessons? I guess not. Actually, I wonder what would replace the gold star reward at the top of the page now anyway. Probably a new I-phone.

“I WANT YOU TO KNOW ME. I’M NOT HIDING”

“I want you to know me. I’m not hiding.”

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During my first year of college I took some Acting classes with Professor “B.” The best way to describe him was “clumsy at first glance.” Very tall with hair that had a mind of it’s own, a wrinkled shirt tucked into a belt that had missed a pants loop, his glasses sitting crooked in the middle of his too large nose, I remember thinking when I first saw him, “Oh boy, this is going to be interesting. How will I ever take this guy seriously?” Man, was I wrong.

From the first sentence of his first lecture he commanded his audience’s attention. We followed every word. Speaking forcefully yet encouragingly, something about him made you want to give his words your utter consideration. And as he addressed the class from his mark on stage, something in his attitude toward us said that he knew we’d want to listen, that we’d want to hear everything he had to say. He exuded confidence. And interestingly after that first incorrect impression I’d had there never again seemed anything ungainly about him. Yes, his hair remained mop-ish throughout the semester, his attire unkempt, the goofy glasses always crooked on his face, but there was no way that Professor “B” could be considered anything but a compelling, commanding presence after you had seen his demeanor in front of the class.

There was something about him, an ease and comfort in his skin, an air of confidence, a way he had of inviting you in to a place beyond the world of outside appearances, which took the word “awkward” absolutely out of the equation if describing him. He knew who he was in such a way that gave what anyone else thought about him nowhere to go.

Of course if you had told me thirty years ago how much this teacher would affect me I would have laughed and shrugged it off. Never could I have imagined how learning to be vulnerable in a theater filled with peers would have affected my life today, but suffice it to say it was the beginning of the journey to who I have become.

Back in the first class or twos I believed that the performance” was about applause, about whether or not “they” clapped, whether or not “they” liked it. Later I learned, and it may seem a stretch for an actor I know for an actress at heart, that the applause doesn’t really matter. What matters is whether or not my “performances” are genuine. Whether or not I am absolutely being myself in the midst of them.

Over several months Professor “B” worked with each one of us, drawing us out. He asked us to trust a process as we emoted in different situations. Always motivating and seemingly tireless, he worked until each student had experienced some slight shift in their ability during a scene. He was able to transform his students, many of whom went on to work in the industry professionally, into convincing performers.

Back then, even though my outward appearance was gregarious and I never shied away from a script, I was deeply afraid and very shy. And although I had studied acting in New York City and spent time on commercial auditions and in plays before college, inwardly I was always driven by fear. I consistently worried, underneath any false bravado I showed, about how I looked to others and how my lines were received by the audience (whether on stage or off). Deep down I sensed that this self involved fear was holding me back, but I never imagined that others sensed it too. Until one day, when Professor “B” “called me on it” with an exercise that included only two lines of script:

“I want you to know me.”
“I’m not hiding.”

My task was to come up on stage and “act as if” for the audience. To recite the lines to the theater audience of my peers and convince them, after him of course, that I meant what I was saying. To show with my body language, demeanor, energy, the expression on my face and in my eyes, that “I was not hiding.”

A simple assignment right? At least it would seem so and that’s why at first I couldn’t fathom why he pressed me so hard on it. That is until I was standing on the stage in the moment after I “got it.”

“I want you to know me, I’m not hiding,” I said. “There I did it,” I thought.
“No you don’t,” he said immediately.
I looked at him confused. “What do you mean Professor B?”
“I’m not convinced that you do ‘want us to know you.’ You’re hiding and we can feel it. Say it again and try to mean it.”
Thrown slightly off guard and even somewhat off balance by his response, I remember shifting my stance defensively and trying again.
“I want you to know me, I’m not hiding,”

“Nope,” he said, gesturing for me to do it again.

Over and over I recited the line as over and over he remained unconvinced. Frustrated beyond measure, I remember sweating profusely and being confused with the effort I was expending, knowing that the beads of perspiration had nothing to do with the hot stage lights. And after every recitation of this one simple line he’d look to the audience below and ask, “What do you think, does she? Does she want us to know her?” And each time the collective response was “No.”

I tried everything I could think of to be convincing during this, the college Acting exercise that I will never forget. Head tilted then straight. Hands on hips then off. Shoulders back then forward. Chin up then down. I couldn’t figure out why he was being so hard on me. “Why wasn’t he believing me? “ “Why weren’t they believing me?”

“Look,” he said, “I am not letting you off this stage until you convince me, do you understand? And for the record, this is going to be worth 10% of your final grade.” “WTF,” I thought as he continued. “Tell me your line and make me feel it as you are saying it. I wouldn’t be pressing you on this unless I knew you had it in you. Make me feel it. Convince the class that you mean it!”

And in that moment I remember hating him to my core, but at the same time being oddly grateful for him. I felt pushed beyond a place I wanted to be pushed to, but somehow I knew it was because he believed in me and was merely asking me to do the same.

So, I tried again as this awareness kicked in. And I remember being conscious of a place somewhere down inside of me, very deep inside of me as I realized what he was trying to show me. It was not about the words. It was never about the words but about what lived behind them. I knew that he was looking at me and seeing potential and asking me to see it myself. He was asking me to see that it would be OK to let the audience in. To allow them to see through the fear to my willing spirit, to my core of emotion, to the place of surety with my lines and with myself that he believed lived in there somewhere. I also became aware somehow that this exercise would have value that was worth quite a bit more than 10% of a college grade.

I shifted my weight again, then bent over and flung my hair back and forth a few times to regroup a bit. I stood up, forgetting about the audience and thinking “Professor Who,” and for an instant I focused quietly (sweating even worse by now) to feel my lines before saying them. I reached inside to a place I couldn’t remember being able to reach before or in fact even knowing was there before as I said:

“I want you to know me, I’m not hiding,” and tiny tears trickled down my face.

And it seemed like an eternity before he began to gently clap and I remembered his presence. An eternity before I realized that everyone else was clapping too and that they were on their feet giving me a standing ovation.

And in that instant, for the first time in my life I knew what it felt like to not be hiding, even though I never before knew I had been. I stood raw and unafraid and absolutely comfortable in my skin. It was amazing. And I knew it was just the beginning. I knew that there would be many more moments just like this one, whether on or off a stage. And now, years later, gratefully and gracefully I can say there have been.
“I want you to know me, I’m not hiding.”
And that, I have learned, is what it is all about.