Monday, March 9, 2015


In the great Indian epic, the Bhagavad Gita, one of my favorite lines is” You have a right to perform your duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits our your actions.” In other words, you cannot, as much as you would want to, control how things are going to turn out – the gift you slaved over making/buying may or may not be loved, or the gesture you found so moving, may go unnoticed or unappreciated. The philosophies of the East pull no punches when they say that to be attached to the results of our actions bring only suffering, because sooner or later things are not going to come out the way you so hoped, wished, and day dreamed about. DARN IT!!!!!! Why can’t things turn out the way I see them in my head??!! It is a lesson that I keep finding myself learning, and each time I’m still a little shocked that the Universe does not seem to want to cower to my will! When I was dancing full time, I finally realized, after about the zillionth audition, that all I could do was come in and dance as well as I could – there was no way of knowing whether I was the right size or shape for what was needed, or if the choreographer already had three girls like me that they wanted to use. To last as a chorus girl, one had to become very good at “letting go” fairly quickly, and as I would go to audition after audition with my sisterhood of fellow “gypsies” I developed the back of a duck – the “water” of rejection rolled off me, without me taking it even a tiny bit personally. So one would think, with so many “thanks, but no thanks” under my belt, the lesson of being too attached to the outcome of something would have been permanently burned into my brain – but, NO, apparently I am a slower learner in this regard, as was made evident in my response to one of my days here in China on my storytelling tour. Having the opportunity to tell stories in English to children in international schools overseas, is something that I have been EXTRAORDINARILY blessed to have roll into my life the last few years. It has been enormously gratifying, challenging, and inspiring to share my love of stories with children of all ages in my native tongue of English – a CRAZY language with made up rules – to, hopefully, expand their knowledge of stories and the English language itself. Anyone who has read my blogs when I was in Argentina, and then in Thailand will see that, for the most part, there wasn’t much of a challenge language wise – the students proficiency in English almost surpassed my own! Stories I would tell to a five year old in the states, I could tell to a five year old in any of those countries – and as to the teenagers, well – one of my favorite storytelling adventures EVER, was when after performing for a group of 17 year olds, we had an entire discussion about the American political situation in PREFECT ENGLISH – not only could these kids speak the language, they knew the culture, I thought of them recently when Jon Stewart announced he was leaving his show, because these kids shared my love of him!!!! But, every once in a while on these tours, where often I perform four or five shows a day, they’ll be a group where the language level is not as strong – AND MAY I SAY RIGHTFULLY SO, BECAUSE AS I SAID EARLIER ENGLISH IS CRAZY!!!! But on those occasions, storytelling becomes a bit of a struggle. And so it was this week, with one school I visited. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach the night before this session for a few reasons – 1) the group was large – about 200 kids 2)they were young – five years old 3)I had been told their English “wasn’t strong” 4) I was to see them two times in a row – in other words one 40 minute session, a short break, and then another 40 minute session 5) They had a theme of “courage” – not that I’m against themes, but it sort of ties my hands, because I can only stick to the prescribed stories. As the kids arrived it became clear that what I had feared very may well come to light – instead of speaking English to the children as most of the teachers do in these schools, the teachers were speaking Chinese, and they didn’t seem to understand very much English themselves, the GORGEOUS space I was in was cavernous – my one body on the stage was swallowed up by the enormity of the surroundings – but I as I began, I told myself to rely on the two things that helped me through so very much – my physicality, and my energy. I lept, I made funny faces, I chanted, I went into the audience, I spoke slowly, I paused, I used props, in other words, I pulled out every trick in my playbook – but it was clear that I was failing – the kids had no idea what was going on, and neither did the teachers, and for 40 minutes I sweated more – not from heat but from anxiety – than I do doing my Jillian Michael’s boot camp videos I’ve been doing as my warm up here. As they left, I almost huddled in a corner, and searched for my phone, wanting to call my husband, or maybe book a flight home. BUT – and this is why I’m writing this - as I fingered the Gita between sessions – looking for some inspiration to try again, my eyes fell upon that passage “you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions” – EVER. I had tried my best, my intentions were good, my preparation solid, and I had never for a second given up trying to make that performance a good one for the children and for my friend Sonia, who I am working for here – the rest I CAN NEVER CONTROL. And, as I sat with that, I won’t say the sting of my “failure” during that performance completely slid off my remembered duck’s back, but it gave me enough internal strength to go at it again. The theme was gone, we changed the seating arrangement, I used less language, more of my clown and physical comedy, and more props, and everyone left smiling – BUT, I don’t want the success of the second show be my lesson – what I tried to hold on to, and why I’m writing this as my entry, instead of all the other WONDERFUL responses and performances this week – is the fact that, like the Gita says, I can’t predict or own the outcome of anything ever, all I can do is offer what I have – the Gita calls it “a duty” – not to back down, give up, because one time didn’t go well, to prepare, to try, to go with good intentions, and then, to quote someone most of my audiences in the States know well, Elsa from the movie “Frozen” – LET IT GO!!!!!

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