I had already been on a course of self-discovery with the purpose of figuring out what I’m going to do now. Recently I turned 60 and since the mid-70s – yes, almost 50 years! – I have been doing virtually the same thing: performing. Although it might have looked like I was doing a ton of different stuff, it’s really all been the same: teaching, singing, acting, dancing. I may be one of the few people these days who actually feels like my degree (theatre performance with minors in dance, music and English) has served me well. Even today, as a fitness instructor in assisted living communities, everything I’ve ever learned and every hard and soft skill I’ve ever cultivated is an enormous part of my success. I have never not used my skills; community, semi-pro, pro – I have always worked. At the end of 2019 I auditioned for and was accepted into a dance company and so I started out on another journey down that same road.
But two days ago, I backed out. I backed out of the dance company, yes, but this backing out was actually a continuation of the backing out I’ve been trying to find a way to do over at least the last few years. The reason:
Please understand, when I say “I’m tired,” I don’t mean I need sleep or I need a vacation or I need time to meditate. No, I mean I am bone tired. You see, the one common thread in everything I’ve done over the past almost-50 years is that people have been looking at me. It’s okay that you probably rolled your eyes just now. Of course, that’s what teaching and/or being in the arts is. Being looked at is so ingrained in me (from the time I was 4 or 5 and my parents would call me out to the living room to do the latest dances for their company) that I find myself performing all the time. I’m aware if anyone in a store is looking at me and I “fix myself.” My husband and I go dancing and every dance becomes a performance for anyone watching, especially when I stay on the floor and dance by myself. Stopping in the mirror to examine how I looked when I did a certain move or repeating something I said to tweak it and try it out with different inflections – this all sounds crazy to you, I’m sure – is just a built-in part of who I am because I have always been on stage in one way or another, all of my life.
So when I say “I’m tired,” I mean I’m tired of being seen and I really want to find a way to bury my natural desire, my built-in need to be seen.
In my very first blog entry, I mentioned briefly that sometimes I up and make some art. Over the years I’ve kept a “sewing room” and sometimes I go in there and things come to be. I’ve always felt like I am a visual artist unable to find my medium. I have been absolutely craving an activity that is quiet and solitary, one that requires me to go into a room alone and work, just me and my thoughts, and to birth something that won’t result in anyone looking at me. The results: I’ve made clothes from scratch using other clothes as patterns, I’ve refashioned clothing into other clothing, I’ve made tribal costume items for my current genre of dance, I’ve made some absolute-beginner digital “art” from photos, I’ve made some simple paper collages, I’ve made some clay bead jewelry, I’ve made things with findings and jewelry, and I’m sure I’ve done some other stuff I can’t remember. But none of those are my thing. I just haven’t found it. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be one thing. Maybe it’s all of this and none of this. But I really believe it’s something I just don’t know how to do yet and that it has something to do with my hands. I believe that whatever it is, it’s out there looking for me, too. I scour the internet for inspiration – which I find – and then I embark on a thing just to find out that’s not it. But I keep on trying.
And now, here I am at home. At the time of this writing, it has been one week. As a vendor in assisted living communities, my industry was one of the first to fall victim to the corona virus. One day one client called and said I couldn’t come in but this client is part of a franchise that closed all of its buildings and one-third of my work. The next day another dropped off, the next day two others dropped off. Somewhere in there the government suggested that all assisted livings close and that’s what they did. And now, here I am at home, with nothing but time. Well, not with nothing but time; there’s also a substantial amount of frustration.
I identify with the image because I feel like, if I just close my eyes and shut out everything, I’ll start to sprout. There’s something deep inside me germinating. The corona virus has given me the soil to work with: an abundance of time to plant and water my need to reinvent myself. Perhaps I’ll have planted a whole field by the time I get back to work, perhaps not. Either way, I’m going to enjoy this time out of sight, this time to till the soil, in hopes that a brand new me will grow.