The Defiant Creative
Short musings and permission to breathe.
Today, for the first time in years, I rode a bike. This is one of the "second chances" I've been given by having my left SI joint fused last summer. For years, I didn't have the stability, and over time, my disability affected my ability to ride without pain.
I bought an indoor sports bike. It's not a Peleton, but it's a decent starter bike, which feels about right, since I'm basically a starter. I've forgotten basic stuff, like balance. When people use the idiom "it's like riding a bike", they underestimate how likely I am to fall off the saddle sideways.
Anyway, this morning I hopped out of bed, put on my clothes, and jumped on my fancy new bike. Sitting so high, watching the sun rise out my window, I remembered something I'd forgotten for decades:
When I was 10 years old, I announced a rodeo.
I grew up in North Platte, Nebraska, which means, I grew up with rodeo. In 1984, Footloose was released, but my proximity to Hadley Barrett made him a way bigger star to me than Kevin Bacon would ever be.
My parents were not ranchers, but as active community members, certainly made great friends with true stewards of the land, and socially interacted with people who were regular rodeo participants. My mom managed a successful restaurant/bar in North Platte that served big steaks and attracted folks who had worked a hard day. I was there a lot, so I had the opportunity to interact with them, too.
It was at that restaurant I met Mary, a middle aged cowgirl, who was tough as nails and soft as fleece. One day, she saw me languishing over my homework at the bar, walked over to me, and said, "Grab your stuff. Let's go to the rodeo."
What? The rodeo? On a Tuesday afternoon? I clammed up.
"Um, I'd rather not-"
"Grab your stuff, kid," she said. "Donna, I'm taking Becky to the rodeo."
Aha! Mom would save me.
"Okay, have fun." Mom would NOT save me.
And so, soon I was riding with Mary in her big red truck, with a Roseanne Cash song blasting out the speakers.
She took me to the rodeo. She put me on a horse.
It was so much better than homework.
Mary knew I liked to sing. Mary knew I liked to talk, too. She dragged me up the stairs to the booth, where a couple of cowboys sat in front of mics.
"Move over boys," she said. "She's here for your job."
And so, I sat with Mary, and two kindly old guys who spent a couple of hours patiently teaching a ten year old kid how to announce for a rodeo.
I screwed up more than a few times. No one seemed to mind - and at the end of the day, Mary dropped me off to my mother, and drove away in the sunset.
I can't believe I'd forgotten that.
I'm really going to enjoy this bike, I think.
This really requires not explanation, but am I ever thankful for the truly inspired leaders I know and work alongside woh strive every day to make the invisible visible, instead of doing the opposite.
Who are some inspired leaders you admire?
Guys, I often find myself at the intersection of two strong vibes: wanting to bury my head in the sand and hide, and simultaneously, wanting to be clearly seen and known. I've been wrestling with this for some time, navigating my own cognitive dissonance, and sitting in it, hoping the Universe magically appears, taps me on the shoulder, and proceeds to fills me in on myself. The thing is, I wasn't made to go small. That really annoys some people, but it also excites others who also find their dreams and ideas too big for their own humanoid bodies. Usually, when I feel the urge to hide instead of speaking up and just doing my thing, I'm hearing some voice from the past that made me feel like either my personality, ideas, or body were too big.
Guess what? They weren't, they're not, and neither are yours! Starting now, every time I want to hide for fear of being disliked or resented or whatever, I think I'll practice taking a big breath, showing up, and getting down with my big-in-every-way self instead.
How about them apples?
Think of a time you felt minimized or silenced by another person. If you could say whatever you wanted to them now, what would you say?
What's a time you were really proud of an idea you shared with others?
List five positive, affirming words that describe things you like about yourself.
"What sometimes looks empty is space for a dream" is a lyric I wrote for The Dream Switch project, but it's also a little mantra that plays on repeat in my brain. Nothing is nothing, friends. Every person, place and idea has its own unique story and features and the potential to continue to grow in its goodness. And while having the creativity and vision and drive to transform "what sometimes looks empty" into "a dream" may not always be met with the enthusiasm or understanding you'd hope for, decide now on being okay with that. The naysayers are not your people. I know the naysayers all too well. I've seen them stand in clumps at picnics and eat hot dogs and give plenty of side eye and whatnot, okay? "Weirdly specific" you might say, and to that I say, "uh huh."
Keep going, you lonely, lovely, kick ass pioneer. Your vision is needed way more than hot dogs and side eye and a fear of anything different than what came before it. Different is good. YOU are good.
Also - did this just get weird? Honestly, I don't care.
What a dream you're currently thinking about?
Who do you know who you think will understand your dream, and help champion it?
What do you want to create next?
"We don't have to sell tickets to our lives." This one is for the long haul creatives and theatre lifers. I see you. I know the grind, the drive, the pressure to build attraction and to constantly fill the seats...but take a moment for yourself. Remember when "flaky artist" was a phrase that stung? Now it's a litmus test for identifying the clueless, yeah? Your talent is real. Your competence is real. Your drive is real. Your passion is a force. Keep going...but in the throes of creating and trying and making magic and building something true, remember this: not many people can do what you do. If you're anything like me, after decades of bending backwards to fill the seats, it's sometimes hard not to apply that to all parts of life. Well, guess what? You don't have to. You don't have to curate your life to please others or make them comfortable. You beautiful, wild, unique creative person. You don't have to fill all the seats. You are so much more. We don't have to sell tickets to our lives!
When's the last time I was able to create without limitations imposed by others?
What can I say to anyone who questions my professional and creative capabilities?
Being authentic doesn't always please an audience. How can I stay strong and authentic instead of twisting to meet the expectations of others?
"If it's too much, see if you can let it be less." These are words I've whispered to myself as of late. As I recover from SI joint fusion surgery, I have the opportunity to recover from some other things, too, including the formerly distorted way I choose to give, keep, and carry. I don't pretend to be enlightened or to have all the answers, but I don know this: Rest and breath and exploration and boundaries bring me some peace I've been without for a long while. My surgery provided these gifts, and now what I do with them is up to me. Perhaps I can be more selective in how and what I choose to carry...and perhaps without apology.
What kind of extras can I let go of right now to feel like I'm carrying a more balanced load?
Am I able to ask those around me for more space and peace in my daily life?
What, if any, resentments do I harbor due to all I carry? How can I start making positive changes?
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Theatre Artist, Storyteller, and Creative Community Builder
2910 Mark Ave
Lincoln, NE 68502
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