Sunday, June 15, 2008

What It's Not.

I suppose that from an outside eye, I probably do have a pretty “strange” life. I thought that the ‘planned out’ part of my day was going to be finished after the trapeze class I taught yesterday (there’s the first “strange” thing). But a phone call changed all that.

In the champagne bar in the middle of downtown that I found myself being taken to last night after teaching a burlesque class to a really great group of women at a bachelorette party (second “strange” thing), I felt like I had stepped into New York night life. Usually, if I step into a place like that, I’m one of the performers. As I walked through a sea of trendy 30 something’s, I wondered how many of them actually live the life of champagne bars on Saturday night and how many of them were just pretending, like me.

A lot of the women I met last night live In The Posh Section of town, where there are a lot of people at outdoor cafes All The Time...where rent is ridiculous, where it’s too social for my taste. I kept thinking about my quiet little neighborhood...sort of residential, a little industrial, very working class...not trying to be what It's not.
As I walked through The Posh Neighborhood (where there happened to be a huge art fair going on so there were even MORE people out and about. It's was scary and claustrophobic, actually), I couldn't help but judge a lot of the people that I saw. Thin, tan (and not because they work outside all day), a lot of money, young, done up, etc. And I couldn't help but wonder if all of those people live that life or if they're trying to make it look like they live that life.

I think the former is a more disturbing thought to me, but I also think that the former is probably true. I won't judge the women I was with last night, because they were, at the end of the day, "just a bunch of girls from Indiana celebrating with their best friend" (their words, not mine).

Even If I was in the position to be able to do that, to go to champagne bars and have a social night life like all those people sitting in the outdoor cafes, I don't know if I’ll ever really feel like I "belong" in places like that. At least in that part of town. I secretly wish that I could. But maybe I fight it because I usually find so much facade in places like that...or maybe it's my own 'putting on' of that onto those kinds of people. Not only will I hesitate to judge my experience last night, but I’ll embrace it. Because for a few minutes, all clichés were broken for me. The cliché of body type, of sexy, of fun, of my own (In)ability, of that Neighborhood, of the people that live there, of bachelorette parties, of girlfriends. It’s not about where you are, it seems. But more the people you are with. I felt really taken care of and included in the group of people I was with yesterday. I didn’t have to play at being fancy, because with the people I was with, I didn’t need to be. They were so cool, and I felt so included. And it didn’t matter Where we were. We happened to be in a really fucking cool place that I’d love to go to again, and it’ll be just as fun to see them again at a house party watching Top Chef or on a blanket at Ravinia.

I have a strange life. I do a lot of strange things. I’m usually working during the time that other people have having happy hour in outdoor cafes. I’ve never been one for the bar scene. Last night while sitting in the New York Like bar, I couldn't help but think about the little dark lounge in the middle of The Bad Neighborhood right next to our old training space. How it never tries to be what it’s not. Where I can work on the trapeze until my hands bleed and walk over, smelling of rosin and chalk, hair a mess and still have the bar tender flirt with me, because I belong in that neighborhood and it’s our place. We’re "the aerialists down the street". And how the "bangers" on the corner might not actually all be bangers, but might actually just be young guys who are too hot in their unairconditioned apartments and would rather sit outside where it’s cooler after the sun goes down. I don't tend to walk to my car alone when I’m around there, especially on the weekend...but I’ve never felt like I was in immediate danger on that street.

The champagne bar Was What It Was, but was it really? I’ll be the first person to admit that I always feel like places like that are trying too hard...that they aren't actually cool but are pretending to be. That maybe it was a joke that snowballed out of control under the weight of its own facade. Or maybe my definition of cool isn’t "normal". Maybe It's easier for me to think that those place, or people, are faking it because I so often feel so far below them that if they weren't faking it, then what the hell would that make me?

In grade school, after I realized that the popular kids weren't really the ones that were liked; I stopped caring about being pushed out of the group. I embraced being a floater. I loved (and still do) being liked by all kinds of different groups, being able to fit in all different kinds of places, and not be tied into anything.

The problem that happened, I think, is that I am now tied into nothing. I think this is why I long for a sense of community with people. When I’m a part of something, even if it’s just for a little while, I soak it in with the same intensity that a plant in the desert does water after the first rain in months. I drown myself in it. I fall in hard and it hurts when it’s "over".

When we did the show at The Huge Church, for 3 weeks, I felt like I was in a community not only of my fellow performers, but of thousands of people who believed in the power of prayer as a way of life. That was so different for me. And I left a tiny piece of my heart there when it was over.

Sometimes, I feel like I leave so many little pieces of my heart in so many different places (third “strange” thing) that I’ll have to be a floater forever so that I won't be completely empty. That I’ll constantly be moving from place to place, going back to old places, holding onto old memories so that my heart, though spread out, at least feels a little more whole. It's starting to make more sense to me...why I get so attached to people and's because as scary as It is, and as hard as It is for me to do so, once I leave some Heart there, I feel like I have to take care of it...and that includes the people around it or the place that it's left. This is all starting to sound very metaphysical and strange. To me (and maybe this is scary or the fourth "strange" thing), those things are What It's Not. It's a very real sensation. As an actor, I spent time learning where emotion lives in the body. It's a real sensation. It's a floating, a distancing, a pulling, an the last puzzle piece dropping into its slot when I get to "visit" places that my heart lives. Actually, that visit shouldn't be in quotes. It's a real sensation. When I dropped a piece of Heart at The Huge Church during the Christmas show, a few days ago when I got to go back there for a Q and A session (for the first time since December) I felt a stitching up in my chest. Like I was a magnetized suit of armor and that Piece left there was made of the most energized metal. I walked into the huge theatre space, and tried to inhale my heart back into my body. It smelled the same; it still felt like a huge room, I was bombarded with memories from every direction.

I guess what I’m trying to get at, is that last night, it was strange for me to find myself letting a piece of my heart go in an environment where I usually put up steel barriers. Whether that is with words, with avoidance, with presumption, or by simply writing it off as "silly" or "not my thing".

When people remind me that I do "belong" or that I am "wanted" or whatever, I don't think my response has ever been "I know". "I know" is what it’s not. It’s always been a surprised and delighted reaction, which always confuses people for some reason. I know this has to do with self esteem. Save the psychoanalysis. I’m (clearly) doing it for you.

I think we're all always trying to fit In. And I think I’ve made it more difficult for myself because I don't feel like I’m trying to fit in with a specific group. (and let's face It, I’d get too bored.) It’d be much easier if I were to chose a group and mold myself to that. If I had steps to follow. "Lose weight, dye hair, get a tan, talk about boating." "Gain weight, marry a doctor, have 3 kids, wear pearls." "Get a tattoo, move to England, start smoking, date a rock star." But I don't have steps. I don't really know where I want to be am. There are so many things I want to do, and places I want to go, and people I want to affect. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing it alone.

The perfectly well adjusted self actualized people in this world (or the loud-mouth fakers who think that they are) would tell me to "just by myself" or "be ok with being who you are", or some other ChIckenSoupMakeMySoulPuke type of answer. To be honest, I do know a few people who actually are ok being "on their own". I mean, for fuck's sake. I really do enjoy spending time with myself. I like to travel alone; I like to do my own thing. I love when I’m invited places with people but, a lot of the time, I feel left out...but mostly I want to be on my terms. So I talk myself into it being ok.

I’m starting to make more and more good friends that remind me that it’s not a solo-warrior-into-the-wilderness type of endeavor. But finding the people who'll actually float with you...

What it’s not, is easy.
What it’s not, is set in stone.
What it’s not, is risk less.
What it’s not, is comfortable.
What it is, is very thought provoking.
What it is, is very exciting.
What it is, when it’s good, is eye opening. And very good.

1 comment:

Josh Hawkins said...

I'm only going to address part of this, in part because this is a massive post (rock on!) and some of it I don't know what to say or it's probably better said in person and will be at some point.

Due to some new, and possibly unusual friendships for me in the past few months I spend a lot more time in these trendy scenes (actually one friend called me from that art fair, drunk). :) I never feel like I fit. Often I like the people I'm with, but diss, internally only mind you, all the others. The facades, the acts, the clothes, the hair, anything and everything. I've never been part of the "in crowd" myself. I'm cool, way cool, anyone who gets to know me knows this, and sometimes I know it also, but never at those trendy places.

What I've come to believe, or at least my current working theory, for me, is that, while many of the people I may find boring, it's no more so than are boring in the general populace, and that's not to say that there's anything wrong with them, just that we don't spark. Find, dandy, whatever. My dislike, isn't about them, it's about me. It's about, in part, my total discomfort in the situation, my inability to socialize on a level I like to socialize on. I've met plenty of people who frequent these types of establishments and gotten to know them, gotten to like them, but I met them on my terms, small groups, at most, intimate, sometimes deep, meaningful conversations. No fighting noise, no fighting all the background static. I can't function with the background static, I get distracted, I can't get into the conversation, the person I'm with is never totally in the conversation. When I talk to someone, I want it to be about me and them, nothing else. I want, I need, total attention, and I want, I need, to give total attention. I'm not going to fight for someone's attention, if I need to do that, the conversation ain't worth it to me. There is something about those trendy bars, those trendy situations, that screams competition. Maybe I fear I'll lose, I probably do, but I also think I'm worth more than that.

But when I'm with these same people, some place small, some place one on one, or a small group, 4 or less. We're all good, we have a great time. I get to know them, they get to know me, they interest me, the intricacies of their lives, their strange interests, whatever, it's enjoyable. It's all the same, we're all the same, some function though better in certain environments and others in different environments. I can't function well at a party, at a bar (excluding just hanging with my established friends), and you know what? That's fine. I don't do those things then, or at least I limit them, really only one person can get me into those situations with any regularity, and I'll move mountains for her as she will for me (friendships are such strange creatures.)

I've started to view, or I try to view, the whole scene as being like the people I'm with. The people I'm with, I know, are cool, some are pretty quirky, some aren't, we're all trying to figure this out, this life thing. Maybe I'm not the "norm" in this environment, but maybe so aren't some of the others. And while I maybe abhor the "whole scene" if I spent time with all the individuals, individually, I'd probably really like a good number of them, maybe more than half. They're the same as the people I'm with, the only difference is that I don't know them and they don't know me. Who is to say that there wasn't another bachelorette party, or party of whatever sort, that wanted to have their Sex in the City the moment? I keep having to remind myself of these things, over and over again, someday it's going to sink in, today it hasn't, but it's getting better.

The other realization I came to, and this only of passing relevance, but it's a story I like to tell, is from a few years back. I knew this guy, only vaguely, in high school, let's call him A, I don't remember his real name. He was smart, all A's, good looking, played sports, a good looking woman around him a lot, popular, charming, friendly, nice, giving, he lived the charmed life as far as I could tell. I wanted his life, at least part of me did. A few years back, maybe only a year back, and I'm going to use today's reality, just to be uber-cool, I realized I live the charmed life. I'm smart, good looking (I still have trouble swallowing that one, but I'm getting better), in decent shape, popular, at least a little charming in the right environment, nice, caring, all those good things, plus, and sorry to be shallow, and sorry to objectify you a bit hear, I am always with the hottest chics, I mean, nice, charming, friendly, smart, good looking, and on top of that, occassionally, just occassionally, I can say, or know will be said, "Yes, and did you know she's an aerialist?" (It's shallow, so shallow, but my friends expect the worst of me, so not only am I with the best looking women, nope, that isn't enough, nor is an awesome personality enough, they also have to have just about the hottest job known to mankind. It's bad, I know, and it's not the reason you're my friend, by no means, and I think you know that, but, just to be honest here, it makes me so much more badass. It really does. Again, sorry, I don't mean to objectify you here, just being honest.) I live the dream, I know it, but somehow, I still don't feel it. I still can't act it much of the time, I can't put up that front, and I think that's probably a good thing (I'd be such an arrogant ass if I could.) :) And really, you do as well, if you want details, sorry, I'll tell in person sometime, it's better that way, but suffice it to say, I look good, I look damn good, I'm the coolest thing to walk into any room I walk into (in all likelihood at least, on occasion I'm not, but most of the time) and having your company only makes me so much cooler, though no longer the coolest thing in the room, which raises the cool are you then?.....