48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Essay #29: restore

In Love on September 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Restore: to bring back to or put back into a former or original state: renew; return
~Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

When I was a kid, I sang with brio, mimicked Flip Wilson, beat on the drums, banged on the piano, dressed up in costume, and put on plays and puppet shows. At one point I specialized in performing – complete with melodramatic arm gestures – Oh! Darling by the Beatles, making my mother laugh until she cried.

Years later, I find myself a victim of nerve-wracking stage-fright. Once the show commences, I’m fine, but beforehand, it’s difficult to breathe. At a recent performance, my friend Deirdre tried to reassure me. “No one wants you to fail,” she said.
I want to believe this.

While working on another website last week, I discovered that the designer had deleted a couple of paragraphs I had written. Please restore the text, I requested. Please change it back.

The word restore caught me, as did the extreme irritation, so I meditated. A few minutes later I realized that I’ve tried to delete parts of me that supposedly don’t fit. Who needs another actor in the world? Another writer? Who am I to choreograph and direct?

During a recent interview, drummer John Marshall quoted his wife, saying, “You have to be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Right.

In Marianne Williamson’s famous poem (quoted by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech), she writes, “our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Despite dreams of Kathleen Battle-type opera costumes, fabulous headdresses, and exotic makeup, my thinking convinced me – for years! – to wear hand-me-downs and cast-offs. Despite earlier success as a performer and writer, I insisted on devaluing my talent and minimizing my skill.

Fear again. Fear of being visible.

Who does this serve?
Not me.
And certainly not you, because then you miss out on my excellent Flip Wilson/Sammy Davis Jr. imitation:
“Here come de judge, here come de judge, here come de judge.”

Essay #28: permission

In Love on September 19, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Someone recently asked permission to use a poem of mine in her movement therapy class. She invited me to attend when she read it, with the added incentive, “You can dance to your poem!”

This pissed me off. Who the hell is she to give me permission to dance to my own poem? I kept trying to feel grateful and flattered, but I didn’t.

Weeks went by and finally the penny dropped, the triggering belief emerged: I have been waiting for permission most of my life — to love, to dance, to sing, to act, to publish… to exist!

I’ve been waiting for permission from folks I wouldn’t trust to take out the garbage correctly. No wonder I’m angry at non-dancers teaching dance class, non-writers publishing books. Jealousy joins the bandwagon, stirred up by the thought: if I’m not good enough, they sure as hell aren’t.

Have I mentioned that self-loathing interferes with world peace?

Turns out, once again, I am the one holding me back: thinking, “I’m not good enough yet but if I study another twelve years, maybe I will be.”

The fact is I don’t need anyone’s permission to do what I want, when I want.

So now I’m angry I’ve wasted so much time: auditioning for shows instead of working on my own; applying for jobs instead of creating them.

But was it a waste? Maybe this is all part of my damn (read, wonderful) journey here. Tripping stressfully along until someone finally comes up to me and says point blank: you can dance to your poem.

Of course I can. And this coming ArtsWalk in downtown Olympia, I will.
7pm October 7 at Fusion Studio, 302 Columbia NW.
Come by if you can. I’ll be singing Alleluia, gratefully.

Essay #27: stuck

In Love on September 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my car lately, driving to rehearsals far away. “So far away… Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?” sings Carol King.

Sometimes I get stuck in traffic. I try to relax, breathe, let it be, but the truth is I hate it. I’m afraid I’ll be here forever, trapped on a bridge over the Nisqually River, with hundreds of noisy, stinky, hot cars. Pierced in Pierce County, unable to move, 40 more miles to go.

Is there a benefit to being stuck? Do I really want to go that fast? In that direction?

The last time I got snagged in traffic, I pulled off the next exit, over the pass, and headed the other direction, towards home. I remembered I have options.

My thinking gets stuck, wedged in a rut, caught in catastrophe. Hear a funny noise? Car’s about to break down. Lost keys? Stolen, and burglars are planning a visit. Ringing phone? Got to be bad news, Bear.

I get stuck expecting the worst, which doesn’t always happen. The noise turns out to be a passing motorcycle. The keys are in a jacket pocket. There’s good news at the end of the line. “Fate is kind,” sings Jiminy Cricket.

Is that true? Perhaps I’m fused to how it used to be, not how it actually is. Glued to outdated thinking (i.e., I should’ve known better). Anxiety wears and tears me down.

Must I expect anything? Is it possible to react to what is actually happening, instead of what I’m afraid will happen? The truth is, I always have a choice. There are consequences, sure, but there are options, too, despite what Fear tells me.

Perhaps I’m not so much stuck, as gathered. Collected. Assembled. Pulled and pooled together.

“Come together,” sing The Beatles, “Right now, over me.”

Essay #26: labor

In Love on September 5, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Labor: to work hard; to struggle to do something very difficult or very tiring; [of love] something demanding or difficult that is done just for pleasure rather than for money (Word 2011 Dictionary)

I am posting this from my new (to me) computer.
I have been dragged into the 21st century. Finally.

Garth Brooks wrote a great song – Kickin’ and Screamin’ – about a man who doesn’t want to get married, then doesn’t want to get unmarried. He’s dragged kickin’ and screamin’ to the wedding, then to the divorce. He sings, “Lord, we never want to be here… sure don’t ever want to go.”

I’m not quite that bad, but I am fairly cautious when it comes to change. Even when it’s in my best interest to, say, upgrade my computer, I cling to the old one.

Inertia?

There’s a great British-ism: take a decision. Instead of making a decision (as we say in the USA), you let the decision come to you. This computer decision has been a long time coming, but it finally arrived. Yeehaw.

I am learning – you probably already know this – that almost everything’s easier with support. Not just financial, but moral support. To get to this place, typing on a new keyboard, I needed to: talk to my computer-savvy friends; consult experts who weren’t on commission; debate the merits of Mac vs PC; test drive various configurations; process the information and mull things over.

Time passed.

Then, evidently, I needed my dad to say, “Hey, what are you gonna do about a computer?” Thank god, he took it upon himself to research prices of various hardware and software, check out craigslist, then show me the listings and suggest I respond to a few. He also gave me some cash.

That’s the level and detail of help I needed to find my comfort zone, drive my ass to Seattle, and purchase a new-to-me iMac.

Self-reliance is over-rated.
Happy Labor Day.