Reporting in: I was not able to keep my mouth shut in yoga teacher training. I did not intellectually attack, rebel, protest or argue. I shared. Shoot me for even writing that sentence. Shared. Urgh. And not only did I share, I practiced what the Unitarians call step up, step back. Meaning, I stepped up to share, but stepped back to make sure there was room for everyone. So fing generous of me.
You might call this enlightenment except for my attitude about it. Frankly, I feel like Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live. (I accuse my partner of being like this character all the time.) And I would rather be a motorcycle toughie. Because being cool is very important to me. Plus, I have a German mother. Expressions of emotion and softness, showing your corny emotional underbelly (like my Irish father) are just not good ideas, I learned from growing up around her. She was wrong, of course, about pretty much everything, but I still learned all her lessons.
Anyhow, that’s how I did at yoga teacher training yesterday. Today is 6 hours, but thankfully at least two of them are doing asanas and hopefully I’ll be so exhausted by all the physical work I won’t be tempted to speak. We didn’t go around and say why we were there, and I’m hoping we won’t be asked to today either.
Which brings me to topic #2: Using your darkness. I mean, what would I say if they asked why we were there? If I told the exact truth? “I’m here because my friend died and every morning I get up wondering what the hell I’m doing on this planet. When I do yoga, I stop asking that question because I’m in too much physical strain to remember what it is.”
I’m sure that answer would increase my popularity dramatically.
Obviously, I am not currently the queen of sweetness and light. There’s darkness here, in me, when I wake up, when I walk through the day. There’s grief. It’s hard. I mean, I’m at the place where I can see it won’t always be this way, but that also means feeling it more deeply, which kind of sucks.
Without theatre and all its drama behind the drama, there is time to be with the truth.
The truth: grief is dark. It’s hard. You forget everything but what’s right in front of you. You have to do something with it so you don’t drown.
I usually use my darkness to jet propel me into the hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer were on PBS last weekend doing the Power of Myth series from 20 years ago or so, and I took it as a sign that it was time. Again.
The Hero’s Journey: to enter the darkness, the unknown, and to be in it, to be seared by it, changed by it, and then to return to the world with a gift to offer–of wisdom, of healing, of light. Something you could not have found without the journey into the darkness.
I think the Hero’s Journey is cool and very unlike Saturday Night Live or sharing or anything. Mostly because it is entirely brutal, kind of like a spiritual gladiator sport. I suppose I secretly think I’m spiritually evolved because of my ability to withstand and face the most brutal of darknesses–unbearable loss, witnessing of violence and oppression, intimate knowledge of what can only be called evil. Of course, I’d prefer to be someone who didn’t know about these things–who wouldn’t?–but if I have to know about it I at least ought to enjoy some superiority feelings as part of the deal, don’t you agree?
Anyhow, here I am, trying to figure out what to do with this darkness, this grief. It’s so strange–when my friend Rick died of AIDS along with most of the gay men I knew, there was grief, self-blame, rage against the US government, bad attitude, a need to get politically active. But this time is different, and, for some reason, worse.
How can I use my darkness well?
What Don’s death seems to have yanked up–grief always yanks up past losses–is this tendency of mine to keep my heart closed. When I sat with Don in my condo, or in Chipotle, or the Thai restaurant, or 50 Vassar Street, and it was just the two of us, there was this almost unbearable tenderness that grew up around us. I credit him–his open-heartedness, his faith in my goodness, his ability to tell the truth about himself, to talk about what he doubted or feared or was ashamed of…or even what he felt or thought about me and what I said to him. I mean, that’s kind of intimate. I find these things challenging, so I’m not close to a ton of people. I cherish it when I find someone like Don. Who I can actually trust.
I want to use my darkness to heal what is unhealed, to open what is closed, to build a different kind of community than I find in theatre, or to change theatre itself, so that story–Joseph Campbell talks about story as the only meaning we have, the only way to explain why we suffer and where relief might be found–is more important than ego. I want to live in the I/thou relationship. I have that with my partner sometimes–there you are, and I see you, and you, and the seeing itself, are sacred to me. I don’t ask you to change, because I don’t have that right. Because the you-ness of you is what is sacred.
Of course, then I tell her she’s like Stuart Smalley, usually within hours or minutes. I mean, I’m not a saint. And, see above, not without intimacy issues.
I used to try to pour my darkness out in writing–I have very dark poems, plays, stories to show for it. They are often beautiful and full of longing. It’s the paradox of our lives, of the world, that the darkness defines beauty, that truth can never be found in a Hallmark card, but only in a poem in which mortality defines the love for a child you know you will someday leave behind.
And the real adventure is this–whatever I know about the Hero’s Journey, having taken it before, may be completely irrelevant to this moment. All I have is the being here, right now, in this darkness, and the willingness to learn what it is, the curiosity to stay until I learn it.
So, today, I go to the mat. I hope for the stilling of what is chasing me, and then I hope to open to it.
I hope that my bad attitudes will lead to the writing of dark comedies about human absurdity, mostly my own. And that I will keep my mouth shut and keep practicing that damn step up, step back, at least for this weekend, which is Passover, which is Easter, which is, therefore, difficult.
I am, to quote Reverend Alex McCartney, practicing love.
But I love my bad attitude, too. I mean, can’t I say the f word at least once? I’m not really an Episcopal priest. I’m an acting teacher-rebel-writer-activist in temporary (or not temporary) retirement.
Is that what I am?
The f word, at least once. Fuck being mature. It’s overrated and no fun whatsoever.
Even though I still intend to practice it. At least outside the doors of my own home.