I performed Not So Supernova this week in Pittsburgh, PA. And the experience was poignant on many unexpected levels. I was in Pittsburgh for an annual conference for Grounded Solutions Network where I contribute as an Ambassador, advocating for affordable home ownership across the country. The niche model that the non profit shares is of a community land trust where in perfect formation, the land is not owned by the individual but by a non profit which is fairly balanced, governed with a board made up of the community, the homeowners, the non profit and anyone interested in enduring affordability. The home, however is owned by the homeowner and the homeowner is free to have chickens, plant a garden, steward the land as they see fit. Curious, let me know, I will tell you more.
While at the conference I arranged an east coast premiere showing of Not So Supernova at the Glitterbox Theater, 460 Melwood Ave, Pittsburgh, PA – not knowing quite what to expect I arrived on a magical, muggy night with my entourage- my dear ambassador friends who supported me and one even opened my act playing a dazzling banjo. When together we entered the theater we found ourselves in a community space, a space usable and approachable and welcoming for artists of all kinds and of all walks. As we situated the chairs and set up the stage my friend Bob Robbins who lives in Burlington, Vermont and whom I would not have known had it not been for this unifying program I am a part of surveyed the scene and quietly said, “This place gives me hope for America.” And in that blessing I stepped behind the curtain allowing Chin Mayo Ricketts thousands of hours of banjo practice uplift and welcome the down trodden who entered the theatre finding their seats. They did not know quite what to expect. Would this night be worth it? Would it make a difference that they came? Would they laugh? Would they be moved? They did not know. They took a risk. They took on a west coast girl and said yes to her invitation to come to a play called Not So Supernova. And I listened and felt strengthened by the power of music, fortified to gift my audience the joys I had to transfer through my story and my movements- through, what they call “theater.”
A pocket of people came together for the same purpose. The people that came, came for different reasons, for the same reasons, for unknown reasons. Some did not come and they do not know what they missed or that they did miss. But for those that come, a minuscule transformation is invited of their soul. An opportunity to learn from my experiences, to be inspired by my triumphs, moved by my failures and hopefully to see within their soul the power to step stronger through their next hurdle. America is you and me coming together and sometimes, it is as small and as powerful as pouring rain during the second scene at a poignant part where I am sharing the ultimate redemption of successfully breastfeeding my baby girl. It is supposed to be a quiet, heartfelt moment but life isn’t always what it is supposed to be. I had the opportunity to project my voice the way my high school theatre teacher had taught me – to allow the resonance to scream over Pittsburgh rain on a tin theatre roof. And in that process America spoke. She spoke above the rumble, the roar, the sorrow, the grief and America listened. Thank you Pittsburgh, America. And if you ever get the chance to go to a one woman play called Not So Supernova you should go. Even if you are tired. Even if you are hungry. Even if you don’t know where the theatre is. You will go and you will be glad you did. And if you ever have opportunity to go to a contra dance or a high school band or a theater in the round you should go. America sings when you do.
I cringe every time I hear someone say “authentic.” It is not the word itself but the pejorated meaning that has come from good intentions. Anytime you are telling the truth, walking the walk, yodeling the yodel, you step into your truth, your true intent, your pedestal of false idols and celebrate you for you – a spiritual awakening is heralded and for me, dawg, it is incongruent. It is my believe that the positive symptoms of being authentic, pardon my French, ought be natural byproducts of good, clean living. There is no cause for celebration for striving to be better than you were yesterday. IT should be expected. And what does this infer the opposite is? Is everyone else – but you and the three people you identify as authentic – everyone else belongs in the recycle bin? Sorry, good luck on your next reincarnation – this life is inauthentic. I never liked Catcher In the Rye but here is Holden Caulfield haunting me with his flippant Phony branding. You’re a phony, I’m a phony, we are all phonies!
This is either a bleak post or a call to improvement. A reminder that when we seek motivation, inspiration, uplift, redemption, renewal it cannot be attained purely by being one’s true self but by exploring who one’s true self is. Applying effort to refine ones’ self had more merit than simply stating that you are authentic. And usually, theis pursuit is only discovered when we look outward in service.
I am reminded that pursuing truth is a journey not a destination (wait for another blog post on that overused metaphor). The pursuit of truth or the pursuit of authenticity is best achieved by quiet observance and application of good. My 16 year old daughter works for Parks and Recreation in the summer months. She is an environmental educator, teaching science lessons to children in parks. Her work crew is partnered up for lesson creation and delivery. She is partnered with a soft-spoken, warm co-worker who she did not know well. He has Down Syndrome and this is his first job. She experienced some challenges in communication and struggled with varying abilities in focus and found creating the lesson plans did not go the way she imagined them to go. She found she had to use some of her talents that she didn’t expect to use. She found she had opportunity to get creative about negotiating which of them did which part of the work. Things that were a distraction for her, were not for him and vice versa. As she explained some of the challenges she passionately insisted these challenges were in no way a reflection of his disability. She passionately championed his ability and as she did that a transformative result came in their lessons. They got them done. Not the way she expected but the kids they taught were educated, inspired and connected to their urban, natural environment in a way they had not been before. And this was by in large because of my daughter and her partner as a team. Success was achieved when she looked at her partner’s needs rather than her own. The kids did not know the behind the scenes lessons learned and obstacles overcome but in the process of the struggle, stronger lessons of becoming were learned. They learned some things did not go well and they had to adjust.
For my daughter she found that just being herself- just being authentic– wasn’t quite enough to reach the end goal. It was a noble starting place but by being candid and graceful and patient and compassionate all at the same time she learned truth– defined here by the needed end result of teaching kids science lessons and learning to interact with a co-worker with different abilities- was not a thing to be. Authenticity didn’t part the waters of knowledge but instead, wrestling with the unknown and committing to the journey towards good helped the goals to be met. Helping others, being helpful yourself and putting forth your best effort today and hopefully better effort tomorrow is a better focus than the inward focus society often brands with authenticity.
I believe women possess powerful ideas. I also believe that by learning to master the delivery of these ideas, their messages can finally make the kind of impact they’ve always been capable of. Seize them! Seize the moments, the breathes, the opportunities and believe in your abilities even when you have no proof that your endeavor will be successful.
Audrey Hepburn said, “I was asked to act when I couldn’t act. I was asked to sing ‘Funny Face’ when I couldn’t sing, and dance with Fred Astaire when I couldn’t dance – and do all kinds of things I wasn’t prepared for. Then I tried like mad to cope with it.” For heaven sakes, if it is good enough for Audrey, it is good enough for me. This weekend I purged my closet of sweatpants pockets, yoga pants, fanny packs and turtlenecks. I passed along the joy of comfortable, sensible clothes in mound form to a free spirit local Portland swap event
I did not want to do it for I find such comfort in my repeat comfortable clothes but I was meant for higher living and have recommitted myself to get up in the morning and dress myself as the queen my mother thinks I am! Day three of selected, poised outfits my perspective has shifted. I hold my head higher knowing that I shall no longer be caught dead or alive wearing 1992 B.U.M. equipment oversized sweatshirt and the much-debated yoga pant. I can’t! I don’t have them! The liberation is real.