March 2013

The Next Big Thing

When my good friend Elaine Blanchard asks me to do something, I am apt to say “YES!”

 

Elaine smiles her impish grin and laughs out loud in the face of any obstacle.  Her work as a writer, storyteller and community organizer inspire me daily.

 

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 7.51.57 PMOh, and I also like her because she “gets” me.  Our wicked & witty text message repartee brings a smile to my face even now as I recall a few of them.

Each time I see her perform her original work onstage, I am moved to laughter and tears – often in the same moment.  Elaine introduced me to the blogroll “The Next Big Thing.”  She participated in it and tagged me to join in.  Love her blog!  You should check it out at www.elaineblanchard.com.

 

When Elaine suggested I write my next blog entry on The Next Big Thing for me…I thought, “Heck yeah.”

 

MY NEXT BIG THING

Today I am learning lines for a play I’m performing in – Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies.

 

I play Sarah, a conflicted photojournalist who has just returned home from covering a war in the Middle East.  She thrives on conflict in her professional life, but now must face some personal chaos of her own.

 

Suffice it to say, there is no singing and tap-dancing in this show.

 

Still, Margulies’ writing is so sharp & crisp that there is a musical quality to the dialogue. I look forward to leaning into the play’s rhythms accompanied by a cast of really terrific Memphis actors.

 

My NEXT Next Big Thing is a project in its infancy.  For 7 years I have been collecting  inspirational material and writing a one-woman play.

 

I have about 30-minutes of material now – and have performed small snippets of it.  I’m always amazed by how encouraging the audiences are about the work, how much they laugh, and that they want to know more about the characters.

 

Still, I work on it in fits and starts.  Mostly fits.  Not sure why. It could be that this is the one thing I’d do if I weren’t afraid.  It could be that the story, my story, hasn’t evolved enough yet.  I still have some living to do.

 

Below I interview myself. I’ve adapted the questions from Elaine’s Next Big Thing interview to suit my interests.

 

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 8.14.03 PMWhat is the working title of your performance piece?

Leah Peah.  And that’s what my sister calls me – to this day.

 

Where did the idea come from?

My sister and I left the independent, fundamental Christian church over 30 years ago. We were both kids then.  Even now, the subject of growing up in that environment comes up when we get together.  We are still sorting through the craziness of that world. Now, we are much more able to see the humor in it.

 

What genre does it come under?

Memoir, for sure.  It could also be classified as comedy, drama, religious studies, women’s studies, romance, and self-help.

When I moved in with my now-husband, I threw all my self-help books away (donated them to library). And boy, there were A LOT of them. Like, hundreds.

I wanted to purge the part of myself that always felt like I was in ‘recovery’ for something or other.

The irony is that my shelves are now chock full of self-help again.  I even re-purchased some of the titles I got rid of.

 

 

Which actors would you choose to play the characters in the movie version your story?

Gena Rowlands would play my mom in her older years.  Julianne Moore would play my sister.  Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden or Kyra Sedgwick would play me.

If the stage version were not a one-woman show, I would cast one actor to play all the male characters.  How fun would that be for a guy?!

 

 

Is your book self published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

It will be self-published.  I intend to perform it on stage.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

Still in process. So at this point, 7 years.

 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Me and You and Everyone We Know by Miranda July

It’s Always Something by Gilda Radner

 

Who or what inspired you?

All the women I’ve ever known about who have put down the past and created something that interests them.

 

What else about it might pique someone’s interest?

The chapters I have written so far are called “Jean’s Jeans” and “Walking as a Godly Woman in the Light of Our Lord: The 6-weeks Course on Womanhood at the Baptist Church.”

 

And now that I’ve interviewed myself, I will pass the pen over to a couple of my favorite inspiring blogger friends.

 

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 7.58.39 PMI met Sharon King (www.midlifemoments.com) at a party. About 5 minutes into our conversation I knew that we had met before. We figured out our connection, and that night I was impressed with Sharon’s sense of humor and her forthright honesty.  Her blog is hilarious (“The Balding of the Beaver”).  And it’s also honest, moving and at times, raw.  Can’t wait to hear about Sharon’s Next Big Thing!

 

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 8.01.14 PMJessica Sprenkel (www.runmem.wordpress.com) worked as a personal trainer at our local gym.  We met there when I asked her to help me learn to like push-ups.  She did.  And now I do!  Along the way we laughed a lot, sweated a lot, and mostly I admired her dedication to running, her wisdom that goes beyond her 20-something years, and her ability to connect with absolutely anyone.

Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body

This is the first line of James Joyce’s epic novel, Dubliners.

 

I’m not recommending you read this book (can you say “dense prose?”).  I’m merely recommending that you ponder the meaning of this sentence.

 

Joyce reveals Mr. Duffy as a one-dimensional bureaucrat who lives an unattractively, colorless life.  He is the cut off from his feelings, defined by rules, and drifting aimlessly without purpose and with no meaningful connections.

 

Though I have never been a bureaucrat, I remember feeling this same sense of being cut-off from my body.

 

As a teenager and 20-something, I was diagnosed with several stress-related illnesses, one of which was irritable bowel syndrome.  The doctors told me that drinking Immodium or Milk of Magnesia or some such chalky liquid would bring relief in the short run.

 

But, they said, this illness had its roots in my mind.

They sent me to therapy, where the counselor informed me that IBS is common among young college-aged women.  The average University co-ed was under too much stress.

 

Ironically, hearing the psychologist utter the word “psychosomatic” made me crazy.  You won’t believe this but I would have rather been diagnosed with a brain tumor than a psychosomatic ailment.

 

(Now I know the truth — that ALL ailments are psychosomatic because there is no separating the psyche from the body.)

 

If my mind was making my body sick, why couldn’t my mind tell my body to stop it with the stomach ache already?  I could not figure it out.

 

Luckily, a few years (and hundreds of bottles of Pepto) later, I discovered yoga.

 

The yoga wasn’t magic. It was nothing like taking a pill and –POOF– being cured. The yoga helped me live in my body 24/7. I learned to feel again. I learned to feel sensations in my body – even subtle ones. I learned how to feel my feelings.

 

It’s living in your body.  Inhabiting your body.  Having embodied awareness.  Cultivating a healthy relationship with your body.

 

I am grateful for yoga.

 

And all these years later, I wonder if I would have found yoga if I had not suffered from “psychosomatic ailments.”

You are more than your body

“Vogue and Self are putting out the message of yoginis as buff and perfect.

If you start doing yoga for those reasons, fine.

Most people get beyond that and see that it’s much, much more.” – Patricia Walden

Yoga practice brings great benefits for your body, and it doesn’t just stop there.  If you look strictly at how yoga improves the body, you merely scratch the surface of what yoga practice offers.

 

You might lose a few pounds, become more flexible, or find relief from a bad back.  Yoga improves the condition of your body.  Before you know it, you’ve improved your relationship with your body.

 

Then with time, you discover yoga has helped you improve your relationship with those you love. Then, with those you merely like. (And some day, maybe even with those who push your buttons).

 

You notice you are not as quick to react (or in my case, not as quick to over-react!).  Ultimately, you are able to tune in to a deeper part of yourself.

 

The practice of yoga addresses every aspect of living. 

  • You squander less energy on the superfluous, so that you have plenty of energy to put toward the things you absolutely love.
  • You learn techniques that help you connect to yourself on a deeper level.
  • You realize that your body is not the full picture of who you are. Your income-level, social status is not who you are.

 

What a relief to know that you are not a skin-encapsulated ego walking around the neighborhood!

 

You are mindful. You are thoughtful. You are connected to others.  It takes practice, self-reflection and the ability to focus.  It takes time to quiet down the noise in order to be receptive to something deeper.

 

When you connect with yourself through yoga, you become aware of the depth of your being.  Some people call this the soul.

Leahsignature