(This entry was originally sent by snail-mail as part of the Upcoming March/April 2013 Events for Joy Center.)
I want to know with every passing moment that I am alive, that I am conscious, that with every breath I take, there will be some possibility of growth, of surprise, and of complete spontaneity. Alan Arkin
I don’t know why he popped into my head yesterday as I skate-skied my way through a mild February afternoon on a freshly-groomed trail in the snowy woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Perhaps it was because my husband, Cam, and I had just watched the movie, Argo, the night before. Or perhaps it was because I knew what was next on my Sunday agenda, a front row in-my-own-home seat for an evening of extravagant gowns and nervous speeches and over-the-top celebration for Hollywood and the movies. It was Oscar’s big night, and perhaps that is why he popped into my head. After all, he was nominated this year in the Supporting Actor category. So as I pushed off and skated my way up the hills and around the windy hemlock-hedged corners and back down again, as I skated and glided my afternoon away, there he was, in my mind, skiing right along with me. “Create an event for yourself!” I kept hearing him say.
It was Alan Arkin who joined me on my Sunday ski, and, as, he whispered the words, “Create an event for yourself!” into my mind, he wasn’t talking about the event that I’m sure was on his mind yesterday afternoon as he slipped into tux and tie and made his way over to the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. I actually heard him say those words, out loud and focused in my direction, six years ago, at an Improv workshop in Half-Moon Bay, California. Although it was billed as a weekend of spontaneous play, as an opportunity to let go of those inner voices that care so much what others think, and, in the process, to let our spirits fly, although it was stressed that no acting experience was necessary or even helpful, the majority of the twenty people in the room were seasoned actors and this wasn’t their first go-around at the game of Improv.
And that’s what he was trying to tell me as I stood before him on Day Two, the day we were supposed to claim a time-chunk center-stage with whoever we chose to join us and to do something . . . I wasn’t even sure what. It was during a break in the morning session when I spoke to him, told him that it wasn’t working out for me, that I didn’t know how to do this, that I thought I’d quit the group and try the surfing lessons offered down the beach, that I was scared, scared shitless. With a twinkle in his crinkly eyes, Alan Arkin was telling me to lighten up, that it is all a game of Improv, this life we are living, and, it is up to us to create an event for ourselves, moment to moment to moment. It’s up to us to have some fun. “You chose to come all this way for a reason. I hope you stick with it.” And I did stick with it, and I did claim a spot center-stage and I did end up feeling like I busted through something, and, dare I say, that there were moments that I did feel as though I was flying. And I think the something that I busted through was that self-consciousness about what others might think of me. When I let myself be “me” in the moment, a “me” in those moments center-stage in Half-Moon Bay that was silly and awkward and arms-flailing free, it’s fun; it’s liberating.
So why was I thinking about this yesterday as I flew down the snow-covered hills, a sweet breeze kissing my face, thinking about this as the people of Hollywood were getting all gussied up, as they were preparing to create quite an event for themselves and for all of us billions who were watching? My afternoon in the woods was delicious; I created an event for myself that I will treasure as the winter begins to slip into the warmer days of spring. We don’t have to hold our breath; we don’t have to wait for our Academy Award moments, for the applause of the audience, for the glare of a spotlight, in order to shine. Alan Arkin reminded me of this as I soaked in the wonder of the winter woods. Every moment is Academy Award worthy and it is our lives we are creating, Improv-style, event after event, from the inside out.
And perhaps, an event at the Joy Center, a yoga or dance class, a morning of meditation, an afternoon of art, an evening of music, a whole month of events celebrating the magic of poetry, perhaps one or more of these events will light your inner fire, will invite you to feel more liberated, to have more fun. You are always welcome at Joy Center. Happy Spring!