This is a story of not doing. Just playing. Not knowing where the road will lead, if anywhere….
The first thing you need to know about me is I am a doer. I make things happen. I gave up my job as a management consultant to publish my first book. It got rejected by every publisher so I set up a publishing company and PR company, gave myself various alter egos, hyped the novel under an alias, got it into the book charts and then signed a three book deal with HarperCollins. This was all whilst putting on a suit and pretending to go to work.
I then went on to set up a company that teaches leaders all over the world how to tell great stories. Seven years into it, I felt I had lost my edge.
I feared stopping. Just stopping. What would happen to the carefully constructed edifice that kept me so busy, kept everything so contained and controlled? Would it crumble and reveal someone who is not what they appeared to be.
So I stopped. I read, I walked. I had time to have lengthy conversations with people.
One day, I heard a story about a 62 year old woman who had created an extraordinary façade of happiness only to reveal that for her entire adult life she lived a parallel life in her imagination. Her story would not leave me so I began writing.
I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to buy a wig and glasses from ebay but one afternoon, I sat with them on and began to fictionalize her story and started to create a character just to see what it would feel like to play.
I’m not denying that there must have been some thought in my goal-oriented self that said, “I will put this play on.” However, at this point, this was not my intention. My intention was merely to give myself an opportunity to play and not feel guilty about it.
I signed up to an acting course which taught using the Meisner technique. It is all about being present and responding to what comes up honestly. After a few months, I asked the course Director if she thought I could play a 62 year old woman. She didn’t really answer the question but told me to just go away and learn the script. I thought, what a discipline to try and learn 50 pages.
Every day for three months I walked and learned lines. I would forget huge chunks and I thought that’s what we do with our lives, edit out the bits we don’t like and construct acceptable versions of ourselves. I would go over and over the lines I had forgotten and sometimes memories that I had long erased, came back to me. It was for me, an exercise in acceptance, presence and in simplicity. What are you doing these days?” People would ask.
“I am learning lines.”
“For learning lines.”
After I knew these lines backwards, I went back to the Director.
“Honestly, I didn’t think you would do it. Let’s put this show on.” She said.
It is an ongoing journey with the destination unknown. The carefully constructed edifice is exposed and I have found rooms in myself that I didn’t even know existed; some have been dark and scary. In others, I have found laughter. All I know is that windows have been opened and doors unlocked.
The show has been put in for festivals and has a life of its own. I have gone back to working with leaders but this time with more presence, creativity and an understanding that the places we fear exploring are perhaps the places that hold our greatest gifts.
Originally published at medium.com