When my son was younger he was afraid of the carwash. Young toddlers , they freak out about everything. They are so cute, but also… unpredictably unpleasant. I like spending time with him a lot more now that he is almost five. He has so many fun things to say and his sincere enthusiasm for running errands with me never fails to brighten my day. Now that he is older he LOVES the carwash so the other day I took him there as a special treat for him, me and our car.
As we pulled in he exclaimed “Oh mommy, I’m so exciting!”
To which I replied. “Yes sweetheart, you most definitely are.”
I learned about the Jewish concept of “weighing the scales” in someone else’s favor a few months back from a book I read with my Bible Study. “Weighing the scales” is basically an enhanced version of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, looking kindly upon their actions before assuming the worst. It comes from the practice of rounding weight to the customers favor when selling something. I have always liked the idea even if the cynic in me does not. This video reminded me of weighing the scales. It is a more beautiful way to go about your day.
Comedy Improv classes are a strange thing. On the one hand it is a total blast. After a strenuous day in the office, and a crazy evening getting dinner on the table it’s both surreal and wonderful to spend the night pretending to be part of a machine that speaks Russian hip-hop (for example). On the other hand it is also rigorous. There are lots of rules to keep in mind. For example, in improv you should never asks questions. Asking questions slows down the energy of a scene. You should also always say YES or to be more exact “Yes…. And”. It’s the most famous rule; whatever someone says, you say yes to and then offer up your own suggestion. Did someone just suggest you are Charlie Chaplin reincarnated as a frog? Then get down on the floor, start hopping and maybe decide that you are also currently living in space. I mean, why not? It’s comedy improv. Anything is possible. The world is your oyster. It’s freeing and also terrifying.
There have been days that I’ve struggled a lot during the classes. The overachiever perfectionist in me wants desperately to be A+ good at comedy improv, immediately of course. I wish to be the GATE student of comedy improv. Unsurprisingly, I am not. The best way to get good at comedy improv is to totally commit and go for it. FAIL BIG they tell me! Its another rule and one that I have trouble achieving. I fail a lot, but small style. Failing big is hilarious. Failing small is embarrassing for everybody involved. During comedy improv classes I try to get it through my thick skull “You are supposed to fail. They TOLD you to fail.” I think this has been the best lesson of all, that failing and taking risks is imperative to success, both on and off stage. I’m learning it slowly, one scene at a time.
Unlike many people I don’t fear public speaking. I’m generally happy to take the mic and start bossing (ahem) directing people. The problem is the mic doesn’t help if you mumble (check), speak too quickly (double-check) and have a smallish voice (three strikes-I’m out). Despite all this I’m still a relatively good public speaker, when I concentrate I can control all of those vocal issues but concentration is tricky when 100 people are staring at you. I’m a fairly good public speaker, but I want to be a great one. I want to facilitate large rooms of people with ease instead of frustration. I want to pick up a microphone with Kanye West-level confidence.
So logically I’m creating a self-designed “run the room like a boss” course. First up are Comedy Improv classes. Have you ever seen people trained in improv comedy? They are amazing. They assimilate a suggestion and then immediately start performing with commitment and swagger. Rolling with the punches, fearlessness and communication with the audience is imperative for improv and if that’s not good training for running a room I don’t know what is. I’ve been doing the comedy improv classes for a little while and hope to blog about them eventually but until then I’m interested in hearing what else I might add to my coursework. Suggestions? Does anybody want to come over and yell “You have a voice!” at me King’s Speech style? Be bold. :)
You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. – Fred Rogers
Image from Nate Berkus’ Book “The Things that Matter”
Something that you hear a lot from people who are older is “I wish I had cared less what other people thought”. I’ve not overly inclined to care about others opinions. I am weird and I like that about myself. I do however have an annoying and deep-seeded desire to please people. I want the friggin gold star on my worksheet. This works well in some settings. When I’m at Crossfit, my wish to please the instructor pushes me through the last set of burpees. It works less-well in other settings where I cave to doing things a certain way to make other people happy. I am thinking in particular of a weekend I spent doing hours upon hours of preschool laundry to fulfill an expectation at my child’s school. Life is too short to do that much laundry people. It was my fault too. I VOLUNTEERED TO DO IT, because sometimes I am a dumbass. A dumbass who wants gold stars.
Compromise is part of life, but I don’t want to look back and be filled with regrets. Why would I waste a weekend washing laundry instead of having fun with my kid?! It applies to the little things too: I want to be cool with painting “Make tacos not war” over my kitchen sink and wearing fuchsia every day and Mr. T style jewelery if that is what suits me. One of my colleagues dresses impeccably every day for work. She told me once “I know I overdress, but I don’t care. I like nice clothes and I want to wear them!” The day she told me that she was wearing a dress that I own but never wear because I’m always “saving” it for an appropriate occasion and I’m a little embarrassed that it has a giant fish print. I think that part of the year of being bold is learning to stand behind my honest opinions even when they will be unpopular, uncool or even inconvenient for other people. The trick is learning to do this gently. After all if I am really being myself I am far more interested in making tacos than war.
A few years ago I started picking a theme for the year instead of making resolutions. Apparently I’m not alone in this as several bloggers I read are doing the same. In 2010 the theme was “Have fun” because in the intensity of new parenthood I had trouble remembering how to enjoy myself. I literally needed to re-learn. The next year I choose “Be kind” because I was remedial at that skill too. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Just. Be Kind. Both years were great experiences. They were such simple, applicable “resolutions”. Easily expanded to fit or contract as needed.
I choose the theme in a very hippy dippy way. I sit around and “let it come to me.” I wish there was more of a science to this matter. I wish there were lists involved! There aren’t. I sit around for a few days at the end of the year until a thought pops up.
This year I can’t stop thinking about being bold. Admittedly this could be because I haven’t blogged since October and the Be Bold Brave Robot pic has been accosting me every time I open my browser. It could be because I attended Camp Mighty in November, an emboldening mind blowing experience to be sure. It is defenitely connected to the unexpected, unpleasant turns we experienced last spring. I feel so aware that life is passing by quickly. Everyday my baby boy is bigger. Everyday I’m getting older. People are coming into this world and leaving it with alarming rapidity. Life is happening and I don’t have time for fear, useless anxiety and my endless planning. I just need to learn to BE BOLD. I mean, seriously, even the sidewalk is telling me so. Star Trek is practically demanding it of me. I must BE BOLD in 2013 and honestly I can’t wait to find out what that will entail!