Thursday, January 24, 2008

Notes from the Field (VII)

A Storyteller Trying NOT to Tell Stories

Even though I’ve been a professional storyteller for only the last ten years or so, I have always loved stories. As a kid, I would check out the BIGGEST books I could find in the library, just so I was certain the story would last a good long time. I remember my dad once commenting on my love of writing tales by saying, “If there’s even the tiniest scrap of paper – she’ll write on it!” Even as a dancer, plot lines are important to me. I LOVE that a flick of the wrist, or an arched back, can paint a vivid scene.

But all the stories I read, write, dance, and now tell for others, pale in comparison to what I call “the movies in my mind”. Oh, what a show!! For as long as I can remember, the “Cinema of Julie’s Brain” has been open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Now, I know other people daydream, and visualize moments of their lives, but for me, it’s more than an occasional “flight of fancy”, it is a full contact Olympic sport. From the moment my eyes open in the morning, until they blink shut for the last time at night, my brain is cranking out stories both large and small.

Sometimes, they are rewrites of situations that happened that day. The “What I Should Have Said or Done” scenario is one of my favorites, as is the “Reliving the Best Moment of the Day” show (which plays in a loop – the event growing more and more fabulous and grandiose at each viewing).

There’s the “Path to Success” tale that begins with a chance phone call or email about a gig that will eventually lead me to great happiness, financial security, and amazing creative endeavors.

And then there’s the “VENGENCE IS MINE” rant! Now, this is one I know everybody has had at least once – even if they don’t want to admit it. This is where (in your brain, of course) you encounter an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, while looking sexy and confident, with the prefect verbal retort rolling effortlessly off your tongue, putting them in their rightful, lowly place. Or, it’s you striding back into the office of a boss who terminally overlooked you, to inform them that you had just bought the company, and that, by the way – they’ve been “let go”.

Because I take all my genres of storytelling seriously, these daydreams are always Academy Award worthy. There is not a detail I do not attend to. Sets – check, costumes – check, lights and music – double check. The voices, facial ticks, and mannerisms of every character are completely realized, and it all becomes so amazingly absorbing, that I have missed subway stops, burnt dinners, and tumbled off treadmills. This, to me, is HEAVEN!!!

Or at least it was, before I got into yoga. At first, yoga was absolutely no threat to my “movies”. Becoming an Eagle, Cobra, Happy Baby, or any of the other yoga poses seemed to have little to do with my brain games. But then, out of the blue, it happened. Just as I had fallen in love with storytelling, dance, clowning, Diet Peach Snapple, and, of course, my amazing husband – yoga began to woo me, too. At first it was just the physical aspects of it. I began to attempt the more difficult postures, attend multiple classes each week, and practice at home. But as all this was going on, I became aware of the fact that the yoga asanas (the physical poses) were only one aspect of what yoga actually is. I came to learn that moving the body was simply a way to get the human mind to be quiet. Cool – a quiet mind! Wait a second – A QUIET MIND?? Did that mean what I thought it did?

You betcha. In fact, the more I read, the more I saw the words “let your stories go”. Not my stories!!! Please not my stories!!!

Apparently, spending valuable brain activity spinning revenge fantasies keeps a person in a place where they are frenzied, grasping, and basically not at peace. DARN! I tried not to believe what I was reading, and more often, feeling. I fought to deny that one of the reasons I loved my yoga practice so much, was that while I was moving and breathing, that’s all I was doing – moving and breathing, and being there, right in that moment. And that instance of time was a beautiful place to be. I wasn’t mired in regret about what I hadn’t said, done, or accomplished. I wasn’t clawing desperately at a future I didn’t know would come. I was just there. And not in a “zombie, spaced out way”. I was actually more awake than before – really seeing the subway platform I was on, smelling the dinner I was cooking, feeling the pounding of my feet on the treadmill, instead of falling off of it.

Maybe, I began to think, my stories were best left to performances. The place for all my dramatics, and creativity was the stage, or even the page, but definitely not my mind.

So, that’s what I’m up to. Strangely I’m a storyteller trying not to tell tales; at least in the privacy of my own brain. In public – well, that as they say is a whole other story!

No comments: