One year less one month and one day ago, I had a panic attack.
Worst panic attack in a while. I was in a car with my friend Mike as he drove me to the airport where I had a flight booked to get me to Saratoga Springs where I would get to spend one month training with Anne Bogart and members of the SITI company followed by a series of excellent adventures (hah) in theatre and life.
Now, one year less one month and one day ago I am two weeks and three days away from getting on a plane again. Getting on a plane for Dublin via London then Berlin then Milhars, France then Paris then Edinburgh Festival maybe then hopefully auditioning for a stage with Arianne Mnouchkine’s company and returning, most likely, to Canada in early September.
One year less one month and one day ago was a baby step, I knew it then I know it now. It was an attempt to break out of my shell, a way to push myself out of a necessary nest of my own making. To see if I could make it out there, and I did. So now, the nest is a bit bigger and the shell a bit thinner so I push farther and I leap with less direction and more conviction.
There is a plan for this trip but it is far less structured than last summer. I plan to write write write my brains out including weekly entries here. I plan to be out and about wandering eyes up heart open with a notebook and a smile. I plan to seek out as many friends colleagues peers and connections to see what is being made what stories are being told in different languages spaces and with different approaches to being an artist in life.
Last night my sister held an art show for a project she runs for young people to learn how to express themselves through the lens of a camera. Their city, their stories. I found myself compelled to ask them a question. No, I wanted to tell them how they made me feel and as I told them I found the question. I think I may have caused mild artistic philosophy aneurisms. These young people were being asked to talk about their series, about where they came from, who they were. I kept hearing myself in them – anxiety around the definition of Being An Artist, inability to express themselves informing their decision to pass the mic to the next person, fear of exposure… and then I looked around me, in the packed beyond capacity space with the small growing mob outside just waiting to get in, I looked around at what was hung on the wall and I saw precise vision, clear narrative, confidence, boldness, bravery, striking and beautiful images. So I told them this, knowing they could never know how I started shaking the second I realised I had to speak, knowing they would not guess my own fear and anxiety at speaking up in such a powerful room. I told them how they made me feel and then, the question appeared.
So I look around this room, I said, and I am struck by the power and clarity of these images and I wonder, when you stood back and thought Yes, this is it, my pictures hang straight, I am done and I wonder, when you looked around and saw how people pointed at your pictures and turned excitedly to share their appreciation with the person next to you, I wonder, does this change how you feel about yourself as an artist? Does it allow you to say,I am an artist, with a bit more conviction than before?
Does it change how I feel about myself as an artist? Does it change how I define myself, does it allow me to define myself as an artist, without judgement or negation…
There was a massive exhalation from their corner of the room followed immediately by laughter, Oh wow, one of them said, that’s deep and then I got some wonderful bright eyed impulsive thoughts in response.
So, for me, I think about this a lot. For me, I think that I am going down a path where I have not produced anything in some time now. I have not done anything public, at least theatrically. I have had some piano gigs and I have been writing. I have been surprising myself and I have been supporting myself.
My head doc and I met yesterday, I needed a four month prescription and besides, these things are what they are, we do what we have to do. I said, I think that I finally allow myself to more than consider that the way I assume others see me might just in fact be tainted by my own projections of failure of self. That I am actually in a positive enough place that I can integrate alternate images of me with my own antiquated destructive and negative image. That I can look up and out more often than down, and be confident in this new image of me. I know this is true because I am doing things I could not have conceived of more than one year less one month and one day ago.
Here’s to me getting to the airport and across the big pond with probably a little anxiety but definitely a big smile and, dare I allow, a nice little pocket of excitement.