As we rounded the corner from 2020 to 2021 and started to venture out after COVID had come to stay, I had a realization, two actually. The first one was I had made strides in learning to take care of my own needs by learning to say “NO” to things in my life that weren’t serving me. In fact, I wrote a whole play about it, My Year of Saying No, which I performed for the first time in 2021 and which I am still performing (next up, November in Los Angeles). My other realization was that I still needed to make some major changes in my life including embracing more things that fed my soul.
During that first year of COVID, I let go of a lot of internal baggage but also a few things in the external, most notably my role as Artistic Director for a local community theater. This volunteer role was feeling like a second full time job and my real full time job was more than quite full. I needed more space in my life and Artistic Director was the only thing I could realistically release at that time. It was not easy to let go of something that was so important to me, something that was a significant part of my identity. In fact, it was painful. I grieved. It was like a divorce. (I’m divorced so I recognized the pattern.) A place I’d spent hours and hours of my life became a place I couldn’t bear to be. My stomach would flip just driving past it. People who I’d spent hours with were no longer in my life. And mostly, I was relieved, DEEPLY relieved. It’s one of the ways I know I made a good choice in stepping down. But, it was still really hard.
It was the letting go, though, that made room in my life for something exciting and brand new. At the time of my resignation, I’d been performing for close to forty years. I had acted in dozens of plays and musicals. I had directed, stage-managed, produced. What I had never done, was write a show. I had it in the back of my mind that - one day - I’d perform a one-woman show, probably about my own life. How or when it would actually happen I had no idea. But as timing would have it, just as I was wrapping up my time as Artistic Director, another theater where I’d worked was looking for original plays for their first Voices of Women Theatre Festival. I had one week to submit. I spent that week glued to my computer, banged out a draft and submitted it. Then, I got accepted to the festival and the real work began.
My internet research had led me to an amazing solo theater coach. This opened the door to a whole new world of theater - solo theater. I took classes to learn new ways of being as an actor and a writer. I signed up for coaching with Jessica, the founder of Soaring Solo Studios, who helped me turn my story into a play by discovering a host of characters inside me. Not only did this make for a more interesting theatrical experience for my audiences, it helped me uncover all the different voices in my head and see which ones were on my side and which ones were getting in my way.
Saying Yes to this new type of theater and my first solo show has been a source of incredible richness in my life. It helped me shake off the lethargy that had become a constant companion. It reminded me that I love to learn and that I need that mental stimulation on the regular to feel like myself. It introduced me to some truly amazing people as loving and kind as they are talented. It opened up my world. I didn’t even realize how much I needed the fresh air until the open door let it in.
I’m still working on the balance in my life. The solo theater work is so rewarding but also very time intensive. I’m still moving with “NO” to make room for “YES!” I’m wrapping up that full time job in a few months and planning for how the solo theater will play a bigger role in my life. I’m exploring some new coaching work and experimenting with integrating it with theater. I’m thinking about where I really want to live which probably isn’t where I am now. Sometimes the unknowns freak me out, sometimes they energize me. No matter which way I’m feeling, though, the unknowns are helping me connect with and live from my authenticity.
My Year of Saying No birthed for me a new way of being. I am actually listening to the still, small voice within that wants the very best for me, a balanced life where I receive as well as give, where what really matters to me has room to blossom. I am still growing in to it but I am on a new, life-giving and that means the world to me.