We were in Indiana this weekend. Not usually a destination location for us but it was the final weekend performances of The Great Gatsby, at the Indiana Repertory Theater, and our daughter was Jordan Baker. And I say was in the most intentional way, as watching her metamorphosis on stage, well... it was fantastic. As was the show. The set. The story. The other actors. And my daughter. Simply fantastic.
And now she is coming home. Back to California and all the intricacies and unknowns that being an actor in Los Angeles will offer her.
And as I was thinking about this, and wondering what her next best role will be, the quote that Nick said to Gatsby, came back to me. You can't repeat the past.
Now my daughter knows this. With each new role she has, she jumps in new. Never trying to capture the experience she had with the character she was before, but instead tackling this new person with a clear and fresh mind. It must be an actor thing. Along with Meisner and Stanislavski, students of acting must also get a huge dose of let it go so that they can approach each new opportunity without expectation and open to the possibility that anything could happen. This is a lovely way to be.
Because usually we don't do this. And I say we, meaning me. But chances are, meaning you, too.
We want things to be as great as they were. And so we're always disappointed. You can't repeat the past. Now, that's not to say that you can't make things even better, but that also takes you out of the now. Because while you're still looking back, your planning forward. And that causes disappointment, too.
My daughter in law (to be) said it brilliantly just recently, when she reminded my husband to enjoy the journey as he builds a company that we all know will be incredible. You're almost at the top of the mountain, she said, but don't forget to pay attention to the end of the hike. (or something like that, but you get the idea). And she is right, too. (Does it make sense that she is also an actor like my daughter. They joke that acting training is really just intense therapy. I think they are right!) For when we rush to get to where we think we are going we miss the beautiful flowers along the path. And perhaps we may miss some other path, too. That we'd only think to walk along if we were paying attention to where we are rather than looking to where we are going.
So we miss things. A lot of things. Either because we are wising that what is is a lot like what was. Or because we are planning that what will be will be fantastic and so miss the wonder of what is happening now.
It takes practice to be present in each moment. It has to become a habit in just the same way as letting our minds go to that wonderful past that we want to repeat or that unknown future that we want to control, is a habit. And so we need to practice it. Remind ourselves to be aware of the moments we are in. Take deeper breathes and slow down and pay attention. Enjoy what is unfolding without worry that it isn't something other than what is, right at the moment that it is.
In my own practice of this, there are three stages.
Stage one is just noticing when you are doing (thinking, wishing) something other than enjoying what is unfolding for you at that moment. It's being aware. And taking note of that. I'm good at this stage. Oops, I say, I'm not quite in it. But then it gets tough.
Because my mind, it's a multi tasking mind, and so while I am trying to connect to stage two, settling into the now of things, my minds becomes two minds. One that is present and one that is watching me be present and thinking about it and wondering how long I can sustain it and still jumping around to the past and the future a few dozen times just for fun.
I think I need to meditate.
And that brings me to stage three. Which is the stage that my daughter is in when she is on the stage. The being right there, as an actor, present in each moment. Listening to her cast mates so that she is not just repeating the lines that she learned for the role, but speaking authentic responses to the dialog around her. Letting the story unfold in each moment and having it be different each time. All the world's a stage. But, unlike Shakespeare's script, she is not just merely a player.
And neither are we.
We can make it real. We can experience all the nuances that we will likely miss if we look behind ourselves or struggle to see what's coming in the future. So let's do it. Let's not miss the life that we have, but instead be in the moment, in each moment. Be aware. Be honest. Feel each feeling and taste each flavor. The opportunity is right here.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.