Happy New Year - 2018 is here!
In recent years, I have been enjoying welcoming the New Year like a reset button. It's an opportunity to reinvest in myself in a way that will be helpful, productive, kind and ideally refreshing. An annual check-in to reflect back and look ahead, marked by a one-second holiday teeming with hope for the future. There's a natural lull marked by the equinox and shortest-days of the year give us a permission to pause and restore. The cold days of winter (at least in my neck of woods) encourage us further to listen to the quiet inside that says 'it's OK to stop now'. Today the wind is whistling by outside with ferocity, the East Coast is expecting a blizzard and my rehearsal was cancelled. It's a perfect day for hunkering down and letting myself write.
My idea of 'resolutions' has evolved in recent years, in that I stopped making them. Like many, it so often set me up for a feeling of failure when all my determination of New Year's Eve turned to hazy memories and crumbling ego, or crushed by black & white thinking- all or nothing- which is nearly as impossible as perfectionism and just as destructive.
In the midst of drawing together my ideas about this I happened to read an a post by AT teacher Graeson Harris-Young - on the topic. The title caught my eye : Stop bullying yourself in the name of self-improvement. (It delves in with practical details and specifics with Alexander in mind, please enjoy!)
We obviously are a little bit obsessed with self-improvement as a society, the self-help section of the bookstore and myriad fitness fads and crazes shine a glaring light on it. We're taught that achievement above all else adds value to a life- Be. Your. BEST. Self (... or else you're a waste, or a failure, or not living up to your potential- the list goes on and on). Failure is part of growth, a big part of it. It's part of learning, even more so. One of the biggest failings of primary education is that students are taught to achieve, not to learn. So many of them come to acting school wanting to be creative but such a deeply ingrained fear of failure. It takes a lot of unlearning to even get to a starting point.
When I start teaching brand new students the Alexander Technique- the concept that takes a while to grasp is non-judgmental observation or simply noticing what is going on, what you are doing, how you are reacting without judging it as good vs. bad or right vs. wrong. We do it all the time, we're so ingrained to it may not even notice it. Because just as we acclimate to physical habits, we normalize to mental ones too.
One of my teenage students talked about an article that was eye-opening. It asked 'how do you talk to yourself? if you had a friend who talked to you like that would you still be friends?'. If you haven't noticed, it can be interesting to start listening. You may be surprised at what you hear.
There is an old trope that I recall from Saturday morning cartoons but likely goes further back to explain the human psyche. We all live with an angel and a devil on each shoulder, whispering guidance or temptation in our ears. But many of us give that little devil power to guide as well, to scold or shame us into submission. This strategy rarely works well, or in ways that take root into lasting change. Very few people thrive under adversity.
I think, this has roots in explaining 'conscience' which as far more moralistic implications- and immediate associations of Right and Wrong. But in regard to consciousness - so many of us live and even are plagued by with this same kind of value assessment, at least to some degree. It a lot takes or practice to let be what is, without critique or evaluation.
This year, part of my reset is to pause and listen and let failures foster learning. I invite you to do the same, but if you fail - even if you fail big time- know that I am over here doing the same thing, and practicing approaching with kindness.