It's been two months since I began work in the rehearsal room, on my solo show, How To Be Well In A World That Is Sick? It has also been two months since I wrote my first blog post.
And what a two months it has been! Wow. A real rollercoaster indeed. My intention was to write a blog each week....ha! Best laid plans and all that. As it happens, it has all been rather a lot, and sometimes, it has all felt like way too much. Like taking on Goliath, alone.
I have contemplated pulling this show a number of times these past two months. I have had a fairly regular series of small and sometimes larger meltdowns, and done a lot of sitting on the floor crying and or staring at the walls of the rehearsal room.
I have learnt a lot. A lot about myself. A lot about this process. A lot about my mental health. A lot about working with past trauma. A lot about my inner critics and demons. A lot about what creative processes and balancing mental health need. A lot about what does not work. What is too far. What is not safe. What is too much, too hard and or too risky. Too exposing or re-triggering. It's been a journey of much learning and re-learning.
I made the decision for a number of wise and self loving reasons not to have a director. And in hindsight there were also a number of less healthy and less self loving narratives and coping mechanisms involved in this choice. I realised fairly early on that it was a big mistake to try and do this so solo. I have been doing some interesting reading around the concept of fierce independence or hyper independence as a trauma response, as a way of coping and or survining. Feeling the need to do it all alone, to push people away and not let people get close or really help you. It's been hard to swallow and also helpful.
Realising that one of my biggest fears these past months and years is people pleasing and fawning and giving my power and agency and voice away, also as part of an old coping strategy and trauma response to many things in my past from long long ago. I have become so scared of my own inability to say no and or hold onto what I want or need, that some part of me was terrified of having someone else in the room, in case I ended up trying to make the show they wanted me to make, and not what I need it to be.
And what I have realised, more deeply than in the past, is that I only really ever do this in situations or with people I don't fully trust or feel fully safe with. That's when it kicks in. If I am in a relationship, of any kind, working or otherwise, and I feel safe, have established trust, then I can speak my truth, say yes when I mean yes and no when I mean no. So it was not that I didn't need a director, it was that I really needed someone who understood.
A person who I trusted and who could be in that space with me on all levels, who could empathise with my process creatively and also personally, in relation to the very personal and deeply exposing and challenging content and subject matter of this work. I needed a person who would be able to meet me on all levels and in all spaces and help me to feel safe. Feeling safe is such a huge part of healing from deep trauma, such a huge part of navigating wellness and mental health struggles, being able to be yourself, as you need to be, as you are, is a huge and vulnerable and exposing journey. Luckily for me and for my team and the work, I remembered I do in fact have this person in my life.
Better that than never as they say! I shipped in a good friend from Yorkshire who is also a very talented artist and somatic movement practitioner, specialising in trauma held in the body. She was the life line I needed and helped me to turn a corner after a very arduous six weeks largely alone in a rehearsal room with all my trauma and demons having a big and wild party, without my consent! It was a very sticky middle part to say the least!
And I was surprised by some of the things that were coming up for me. SO many fears and self judgements around the subject matter for this work, so much anxiety around being open and honest with such deep and raw wounds. SO much fear of the reaction of others and or the validity of my journey and the worth of my story..."Does this matter? Is anyone going to want to hear this? Is this a good idea? Do I have the right to be here and take up this space, on this stage, now? Is it good for me? Am I re-traumatising myself?
Is this a bad idea? Am I doing this from a healthy space? Why am I doing this? Where does it come from in me? Is it from a place of fullness or a place of lack? Should I cancel it and should I pull back? What about all the peoples voices I haven't included, all the stories I am not telling, what about them? How can I say all of the things I want to say and what is safe for me to say or speak? What needs leaving out? Can I do this? Is it possible?
Ultimately I have decided yes. Yes I can. Yes I want to. Yes it matters. Yes I do deserve this space. Yes this is healing for me. Yes I am finishing this. Yes it is very hard and very scary and sometimes feels like way too much. And yes. I am doing it anyway. This is now the last month. I have a lot of fears around the time I feel I "wasted" and a lot of space to now change and re-write that narrative as part of what happened. As part of this show process and part of healing and part of navigating wellness and unwellness; the constant need for self compassion and acceptance and checking in and changing things and a big and endless amount of flexibility and fluidity and willingness to go with and be with what is...It is not easy. That's for sure! It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and that said, getting to this place in myself, over the last seven years or more, was harder still....
If and when I am able to remember that, to remind myself how far I have come, then I am able to find the strength to keep going and carry on. To allow the days of sitting on the floor and doing little or nothing. To be kind to myself in them. And embrace the days like today when I feel I was able to achieve a lot. To make space for valuing both equally and not fall into the trap of telling myself a story that one is 'better' than the other. They are both part of me, both part of this process, of this work and of this journey. So here's to making space to celebrate all of us, the times and moments when we can and those when we can not...equally. To making space for our light and dark, pretty and ugly. All.