Space is wildly important in the theater. You need a space to put the actors, you need a space to put the audience. You need a breath of space between the reality of a small community sitting in a room together and the imagined world of the play, when the lights go down on the audience and before they come up on the stage. An actor needs space in their bodies and minds in order for a character to fill it. Relaxed readiness, like a cat napping but ready to spring up at any moment, is where you have to live when you're back stage waiting for a cue. One of my attempts at building an educational branch of a theatre company was called "Project Empty Space" for this very reason, our logo was an open circle.
I am really bad at sitting and doing nothing. I feel guilty when I do it - like I have to be Doing Something in order to be worthy of my time here on earth. And Doing Something always looks like working, like running around, like working out, like helping someone with their project, like writing a blog post. Doing Something is useful and selfless, while sitting and being quiet is selfish. If I don't Get Something Done, I have wasted my time. If, at the end of the day, I don't have a list of constructive things I've completed, (I washed the dishes, I did the laundry, I went to work, I fixed something that was broken, I replied to e-mails) I feel awful, stagnant, gross, like a mold that just kind of sits there and grows. Pond scum.
Thing is, all this running around hasn't been serving me. I've driven myself, on occasion, to stress out so much that I can't handle it in a healthy way.
And sitting and watching t.v. with a cold beer in my hand doesn't really serve me, either. It's nice once in a while, but that's not the best way to cool down from a stressful day if all of your days are stressful.
There is a way to make sitting in silence = Doing Something. (Even pond scum is busy photosynthesizing.) I haven't quite figured it out yet, because meditation (Tai Chi, relaxing in shavasana, anything that requires you to clear your mind) makes me crazy - all I can think about while I'm sitting and being quiet is how bad I am at sitting and being quiet. It's a problem that I need to work on. Mindfulness training is something I discovered last summer, and boy is it awesome - I hope that I can apply it to a few exercises in my classroom this summer, even though I'm not a zen master. (I have a feeling the students will be doing a lot of teaching me this summer.)
So I'm clearing a space to figure out how to balance my life. I've realized long ago that Step 1 is just making the space, finding the time, letting go of the things that aren't helping, cutting out the junk that you don't need, kicking out the dust bunnies in the corners. I'd like to learn new skills, to study new perspectives, and I'd like to focus on my classes - my favorite job in the world - this summer. I'd also like to become a totally ripped superhero. (Dream big!) To do that, I have to make some minor sacrifices that, collected together, add up to a mountain of JUNK.
It's deleting facebook friends that I don't remember meeting and who have never interacted with me, online or in person. It's collecting the clothes I don't wear and donating them. It's spending about 15 to 30 minutes every morning doing yoga. The biggest sacrifice of all was making sure I had time to breathe this summer... teaching full-time takes everything out of me, especially in the first few weeks when I'm adjusting to the schedule, nervous that I'll screw everything up, and forgetting to drink enough water. I come home and sleep about ten hours a night. I've had to pass up two amazing opportunities to work on someone else's play, because I looked ahead and imagined myself coming home tired and then getting crabby about going to rehearsal. Perhaps I'll go see the shows and wind up deeply regretting the decision to stay out of them... but that regret is easier to handle than the regret of letting down a whole cast because I can't focus, can't show up on time, and I can't be present and give my full energy and attention to the work. Better to stay at home, to work on the lesson plan, or even, maybe, have some time to sit and Do Nothing.
So. My journey to create space has begun. This morning was a mindful "moving meditation" yoga practice, which inspired me to write this. It was more difficult than any of the others! Working out, building muscle, stretching farther, that's easy because it feels like I'm DOING SOMETHING, coming closer to that dream of saving the world with my strength. Turns out I also have to practice some strength of mind.