Somehow we’ve managed to make summer planning hard and draining. We seem to oscillate between having so many aspirations that we lose interest in doing any of them to equally dreading a blank slate.
When I’m at my worst, I am impatient, judgmental of our privilege and frustrated that we cannot just “figure it out!” even though I know that the best results don’t come from insistence or trying to control what happens.
“Sometimes structure steals true joy”, writes Joanna Gaines in this summer’s Magnolia.
With this in mind, I’ve been nudging us to come up with a loose vision, or guiding words, or principles for the summer+ whilst also seeming to forget how I’d help others do the same.
And then today, a breakthrough in a text from Peter.
We hadn’t talked in 17+ years. Then we put our heads in nearby boxes at the wax museum. It was a weird and unexpected delight.
Andrea and I had been very close friends during grad school and beyond. We’d had what seemed like a sudden end around 2005/6. A coffee together last week–we were nudged by a common friend–shed light on what had happened. She’d needed help back then, and I had not heeded the call :(. I’d made up a different story about what had become of us. It felt good for me to get more curious, to take responsibility and make amends.
We covered a lot of ground quickly. Professional paths. Parenting. Both having blended families with complicated kids. We fondly recalled our Orbit Room days and making up bar challenges. She reminded me that, for a time, I was considering applying to med school (I remember this) or going to work in Yemen (what???).
Turns out she’s become an accomplished improv performer and teacher outside her academic career. She thanked me for convincing her to take a course together at Second City during our late 90s Toronto days. She says that improv’s #1 rule of saying “yes/and” changed the course of her life. Same. As a life philosophy, there really is nothing better.
Peter started improv right before we met. He says it opened him up and gave him the confidence to meet me. He’s the reason I am back playing at improv now. And he’s the sole reason I am saying yes to performing in front of an audience. We’ve even tossed around the idea of teaching kids.
So while all these overlapping stories probably only make sense to me, I’ll end with a thank you to Andrea. Our short time together last week showed me that I am the only one standing in my way to doing audacious things. Piecing together a more rounded and forgiving version of my past, helps me move more freely into a future I want.
First step: Give it my all in front of more live audiences. What have I got to lose?
Next step: Co-teach improv to some kids. Who knew we were allowed to decide things like this?!
Frost said a poem begins with a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.
Words held back, feelings not felt, stories misunderstood, assumptions not tested, details forgotten or suppressed, joys “undeserved”, shames buried or carried too long, excitements so bold they need protecting, dreams so fragile they can dissolve before they’re spoken. These are the beginnings of my unwritten “poems”.
From Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop: A Memoir by Alba Donati:
“Ideas don’t just spring out of nothing—they smolder, ferment, crowd our mind while we sleep. Ideas walk on their own two legs, follow their own parallel path in a part of us we have absolutely no idea existed, until one day they come knocking: Here we are, they say, now listen carefully!
The idea for the bookshop must have been lying in wait, ensconced in the folds of that dark and joyous country we call childhood…”
I feel this in me now. A smoldering and fermenting. I can feel the tendrils of what IT is but not the details. Though I feel strongly that it will be done jointly with Peter. That it will be far more creative than I’ve allowed myself to be so far. And that it will be done by my hands, my heart and my mind. I also sense that it will take me places I haven’t gone before, expansively. Perhaps geographically.
Ten days into her memoire, Alba Donati opens a box of tarot cards called The Literary Witches Oracle. She draws Anaïs Nin, “the subconscious”, Emily Brontë, “fantasy”, and Jamaica Kincaid, “history”. From these, she gives herself a prophecy: we have to revisit our broken dreams, let our creativity run free, and realize our desires here and now, at this point in history.
I’d love to see what I’d draw. For now, I’ll borrow hers. And while I don’t hear a clear knock at the door, I hear two legs approaching. I am listening very carefully.
There was a beautifully wrapped gift for me on our bed the other night—the book Everything Beautiful with a beautiful short note. I just started it and this page stood out:
I keep talking about how to fit it all in.
And paint colours (my version of fitted cabinets because I already spent a season on cabinets).
And garden plants.
All the while, I know that I am not focusing on the things that truly matter. Somehow though, this talk of schedules and colours helps me follow beauty and connection. My beauty. The beauty in others. And how I’m connected. It helps me root myself like a strong grass.