Oklahoma, LA Opera, 1990
Long, long ago, in the time of the dinosaurs, back when I made my living onstage, I met a woman who drove me insane. She was so constantly enthusiastic. She was bigger than life. She was so flipping secure in herself. I would cringe at her exuberance.
I, of course, was disdainful and judgmental and criticized everything. I was "mature" and "realistic," and I was cynical. I didn't have enough money to join in all the outings on days off. I was still working part-time jobs while performing and I used breaks for naps. I didn't join in ANYthing she organized. Not even just sitting together at meals, or working out between shows. And, unsurprisingly, I was not happy much of the time. (I still wonder how I managed to have any friends during that time. I was that un-fun.)
I cannot remember when the switch flipped, but I distinctly remember one of my actor friends at the time saying that when someone gets under your skin that much, maybe they are displaying something about yourself you don't like. Or something you envy. Seeing as how I was most certainly NOT buoyant and effervescent, it clearly wasn't my attributes being reflected back at me that I didn't like about this woman. It occurred to me that maybe I envied her. Maybe "mature" and "realistic" wasn't only inaccurate, but less fun. Maybe self-assurance and playfulness was a nicer approach than self-pity. Between shows one day, I finally gave up my much-needed nap for the Jane Fonda session in the women's dressing room. And, big shock, I had a better day than when I got my rest. I started to laugh with the other women in the show. And I started to enjoy myself.
I think this was my first yoga lesson.
Over the years, and in many different situations, I encounter people who set my nerves on edge. Since my early experience with another performer, my practice whenever that has occurred has been to figure out what it is that annoys me so. And then I look to see if what I dislike is a quality I dislike in myself, or is a quality I envy in that person. I am still working on this. It is a difficult practice. Coming into contact with so many new folk every day through my teaching, I figure I will be working at it all my life.
That woman who drove me insane and gave me my first lesson in joy is still my friend. We performed together numerous times over the next few years. Through her presence, she reminded me to be exuberant. She still does. And she has influenced my teaching more than I could ever have imagined. More, in fact, than I had realized. The other day, I stepped outside myself while teaching a large class. I saw someone enthusiastic and bigger than life. And the woman I saw was having a blast.
Deep, and not so deep, thoughts on bodies, movement, yoga, art, shoes, parenting, dogs. You know, life.