I recognize about half of the players as we scatter to claim our seats in the intimate stadium theater. Dark pants, collared shirts, we’re all donning a new uniform for a new production of Denver’s Next Improv Star. (DNIS, Season 11). Zach, of my grad show cohort, is nearby and we each confess to our surprise/fear/excitement at being in the cast. I’m not alone in this. Looking around I recognize about half the actors.
Eric, the show originator and theater owner, successfully shifts the mood over the next half hour from anxious to relaxed as he explains what the show is, what it isn’t, and how this process will unfold. A weekly improv competition, one by one we will be judged and voted off the show. The only way to win is by supporting your fellow players.
Over the next few hours I enter a new realm.
I’m not a selfie person, don’t usually spend much time looking in mirrors, and am shocked at how much I don’t know about putting on makeup for filming. I at least know the names of all the players now and there’ll be four more play dates before the opening. Somehow we all make it through and disband for a month for the holidays. The first steps into merging with a new profession, initiated.
The rehearsals? Nine hours of training with three of last year’s runners up. All uncomfortable (the rehearsals, not the trainers), all great learning experiences. Empathy and admiration for my fellow players is high! And the challenges are, well, challenging, as designed. I walk away with knowledge in my head, and lots of feedback on what needs to change as I coordinate that with what my body is doing (Don’t forget the object in your hand; when someone comes through the door they have a gift to offer; you can pop into a scene to add, and don’t have to actually stay on stage when it doesn’t fit.) Okay so I’m getting better at getting lots of feedback in front of the others. As I take this feedback to heart, I find myself later that week in a separate rehearsal self-correcting. I am learning to rely on my own judgment. (Even as the mistakes continue, at least my self-awareness is improving.)
Produce a two-minute video clip? I have no idea what I’ll do. I’ve had plenty of time to come up with ideas, and try things, but travelling and being sick for three out of four weeks definitely was distracting. And I still haven’t answered the question for myself, “Why should I be Denver’s Next Improv Star?”
One week until it’s due, so I recruit my friends on a preplanned trip to film some ideas I have. Taking the clips home, I arrange the ones I think will tell a story, and put them in imovie. I’m waiting for feedback from my daughter on the draft when I notice a lot of silence in the clips I’ve chosen to use. Maybe she would put in music for me? No I can’t ask that, she’s overwhelmed in her own life. I quash that fantasy.
Her comment back? “I think you should add music, to reinforce the story.” Techno fear is real….I have my bubble, my cone of terror, around it. But I keep moving forward.
I google my way onward, looking to how to add music. Then I have to figure out what I can add legally. Then I google again, for instructions that I can actually apply to my aging equipment. (Did I actually just succumb to using google as a verb?)
OMG it’s soooo much better with music! That is all I can handle for today. I know I may still have to reshoot tomorrow because there are more hurdles, like loading this up to the site.
The first one and a half hours the next day are spent trying to figure out/reinstate a Google address I had for a month years ago and don’t use and can’t recover because my phone number changed five years ago. It is still linked to my email address and I am getting notices that someone will get back to me in five business days.
ARGGH it’s due today. ;-( ;-( .
Somehow I manage to slowly work through one hurdle at a time, and although it takes an hour to load, it works.
Now for the fun…I get to watch what all my peers have created and you can too!
Watch the responses, then VOTE FOR ME (More importantly, vote your conscience, our country needs this.) Then VOTE FOR ME AGAIN (no limit!). Voting is open Monday through Friday noon MST.
Each show will have one less cast member than the last, so this could be your last chance to see your favorite. Get your tickets now, shows will sell out!
Walking through the hall of the uppermost floor of the Bovine Metropolis Theater, I spotted a previous classmate busy drawing on a white board. She had an Einstein/Bovinian focus about her.
The brief exchange began with a nod and a hello. “Are you going to audition for Denver’s Next Improv Star (DNIS)?”, I queried.
“Yes. And you?”
“I haven’t decided.”
“Of course you’re going to do it, ” Claire stated without missing a beat, eyes focused on her writing task.
“We’ll see”, my feet kept me moving forward.
I was surprised by her confidence, her expectation. Of course I wasn’t good enough to get cast. None of my auditions to date had led to being in a show, so how could I possibly be accepted in DNIS, where a star is born (okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic) ?
Every few days the internal dialogue would ping-pong.
“You’ll get more experience auditioning and playing with new players.” (Gotta do it.)
“You’re going to drive two hours to play for twenty minutes?” (Give it up.)
“That will be one more piece of experience under your belt.”(Gotta do it.)
“You saw the players last year, they were amazing. They really knew how to play. Remember how you thought this might be years down the road, something you could aspire to?”(Give it up.)
“But they really improved, and that is what I want, to get better. Maybe then I’ll get on a team where I can continue to progress.”(Gotta do it.)
“Get real, look at the time commitment, the trips you have planned, the reality of being judged on stage in front of an audience.”(Give it up.)
“Oh, yeah.” ;-(.
One week later, heading into the Beginning Musical Improv class, the inner dialogue shifted once again.
“ How likely is that that your four planned trips are not going to interfere with the time commitments? It’s a sign to go for it.”(Encouragement.)
“You’re still not good enough, by next year you’ll be lots better.”(Procrastination).
Chatting to my instructor, Kat, after class, I mention I’m considering auditioning. Her response, looking at me straight in the eye, “ I would come to see you!”
“You would? Really?” Such an unexpected response!
“ If I do audition do you have any advice?” She was so talented and I really respected her as a teacher. I wrote down what she shared and went on to ask two additional coaches their opinions. Each one shared different guidance, all I recognized as true.
The inner dialogue reconciled.
“Worse case, you get more audition experience. If you get into the cast and are kicked out of the first show, you got three training sessions and show experience. Best case, you go to the finals and get to spend the day after your birthday with talented players, growing even more. “(Getting real/getting uncomfortable, getting real uncomfortable.)
Walking out of the theater, I said goodbye to the two new players I had met at audition, thanked them for playing, and left for home. I didn’t feel like I had done well, but I knew I had done my best. It was different than the other auditions. There was a monologue where you talked about when you fell in love with improv. And there was a dialogue among the players on stage about the performance.
I read the email, filling in the blanks after the first line I’d seen before….”You’re awesome and thanks for auditioning….Unfortunately…”.
Wait, this was different. I had to read it several times before it sunk in. Really? I made the cast? What?! (read with excitement. )Wait, what. I made the cast (read with disbelief.) Fear. Read again. I made the cast! Excitement.
(Part Two: Rehearsals, photo shoots, and a two minute video (lions and tigers and bears) Oh My)
My last year of sleuthing had always led to a dead end, a black hole. Closing in on the New Year, I was no closer than I had been when I began trying to remedy my situation. It’s not like I hadn’t tried. I don’t how many times I had Googled the name of the previous townhome owner and tried to track down his contact information. As my mind started to take off in frustration, I brought myself back to my focus. Breathe, let it go. I had searched my real estate transaction records, Googled again, looked in my files again. Breathe, let it go. What’s that saying? Oh yeah, the definition of insanity: trying the same approach again and again and expecting a different result.
As I walked up the stairs, the month-old scrape marks on the wall were another reminder of what I hadn’t accomplished. The new and refurbished red oak floors and stairs looked gorgeous. The location of these new wall marks was another version of a slow leaky faucet, a pivot point in the house that kept reminding me of my unfinished project. The holes and missing paint from each of the window frames where I had removed the wooden blind brackets a year ago had been tolerable. No longer. The holes and scrapes on the walls of my home had become a Holey Abyss, a bottomless chasm, I didn’t know how to address. Living alone, I couldn’t expect my five month old puppy to complete a “honey do” list.
My attempts to recreate the original look, my wallscape project, shouldn’t have been a big effort. Shouldn’t is always a big cue word for me, usually spurring my frustrations. And because a hole isn’t anything really, how can it be so bothersome? I wasn’t ready to accept that my aging, now 61, could have been part of why it annoyed me now.
My quandary was a lack of knowledge of the seven paint colors in the home I had moved into 18 months ago. I’d come to appreciate color schemes that originally I didn’t care for. They matched my belongings perfectly, and the contrasts opened up the look of the space.
Karl was my go-to professional painting wizard and friend; maybe he’d have a solution. I sought his advice and in his mild-mannered way, he told me what I didn’t want to hear, but knew was the truth. He said anything I did without the original colors would likely make it look even worse. He reminded me of his mantra…never discard the leftover paint! (I hadn’t). And don’t even think about fixing the baseboards (scrape marks/pictographs left from previous animals). These stained wood would be too much work and expense to restore.
Nearing the holidays, knowing the seasonal decorations which served as distractions would soon be put away, I contacted my realtor. Could she get me the number for the previous owner (didn’t seem to be listed) or contact information for the decorator who worked with him? I explained my dilemma. Margot, the gumshoe, managed to track down the realtor, who called the owner who provided the name of the painter. Nice sleuthing!
A few days later, I left a message for Dave, the Color Guy. He returned my call, and I was grateful for the level of detail he provided. He had researched his records and provided the reference numbers for 5 of the colors (AF-XXX, AF-XXX), identified them as being from Benjamin Moore, and said they were an eggshell finish. That was all he knew. I felt like I had hit the jackpot, until I started perusing the thousands of paints listed on the company website, trying to find my missing colors. It was futile.
Google maps identified four stores that carried the trademark colors. Listening to my intuition, I conducted my research, which indicated the local store might be more difficult to work with since they rebrand all the Benjamin Moore paints as their own. Choosing another location, I headed out to the town north of where I lived. Upon entering the remarkably clean and well organized Benjamin Moore Store in Longmont, I was greeted by two people who offered to assist me immediately. I spoke to them both at once, not knowing who might best help. I explained what I knew, and the man behind the counter continued to ask me questions. “Forest” was the name on the badge he proudly wore on his trim-fitting shirt.
“Do you know the base paint? Do you know where it was bought originally? Do you know approximately when? Let’s look at what you already have, and I’ll see if we have swatches to match.”
My heart sank, I thought I had come so far. I was overwhelmed with how much I still didn’t know.
My response must have been very visible because Forest looked at me with sympathy. “I’m going to take this on, to figure it out for you.” First, he located the swatches for the numbered colors on the list. Hearing the names and seeing the matching samples made them more real. (Yes, Truffle, Morrell, Lodge, Pomegranate, Sanctuary…. they’re alive!) He asked the name of the painter, and said he was going to try to track down where he bought his paint, expecting the store would have information even if the painter’s records weren’t complete. He warned me if it was a contractor base paint, it was likely I would only be able to buy it in gallon containers, he didn’t want me to be surprised. “Let me work on it and I’ll get back to you later today, or tomorrow depending on when I hear back from the painter,” he said with confidence.
“No worries, I’ve put this off for a year, I’m just grateful you’re willing to investigate. I’m guessing if I have to buy gallons of custom colors, it’s not going to happen.” I really wasn’t ready to invest the hundreds of dollars into paint where the vast volume of the materials would be wasted. Let it go. I left the paint store knowing the next steps were out of my hands, again. I wasn’t ready to get creative with my options, such as painting mini murals at the twenty plus locations I knew needed to be addressed.
Forest not only took on my mystery, but pursued it fervently. I visualized him in his hounds-tooth cap with his magnifying glass. Contacting the painter, tracking down where and when the original purchase had been made, and determining the rest of the color and material information, was an effort that was above and beyond. He did not disappoint.
Forest called and left a message. When I returned the call he shared all he had learned, including rounding out the elusive Urban Nature and Amsterdam missing colors. He offered to put together sample size containers for each and suggested I use an artist’s brush to complete the repairs, thinking it would show up less as discrete touchups. It wouldn’t match the base used, but it was worth a try. I picked up the samples two days later.
A mix of pointillism, and a little Jackson Pollack , it took about an hour to touch up all the rooms in the house and the hallways. I saw spots I’d never noticed, and in a few locations a second coat was needed. I stepped back and looked where there had been holes in a window frame. Finally, a niggling project that had been taking space in my mind for more than a year was complete. My Holey Abyss was no more and was replaced with renewed energy where before I’d experienced a subtle drain.
Every challenge has lessons for me. I keep moving forward, knowing at some point I’ll be able to reflect on what they were. The belief that some day they will be behind me, or I will see them in a new light, serves me well. Walking my talk keeps me honest as a life coach, looking for the growth opportunities. With an added sense of peace and harmony I reflected on the reminders.
While my painting puzzle was not life threatening, or dramatic, and in many ways can seem very petty, I find the same lessons show up for me again and again. Awareness of my physical responses, of where my energy is going, validating my intuition, and honoring what is showing up, effect my behaviors and responses. This approach has changed my experiences with challenges themselves, transforming me and the lens through which I see things. I’d rather be reminded of my lessons on the smaller scale, so I can practice behaviors that help when the bigger challenges arrive. And they always do.
Do your past trials inform you in dealing with new ones? What do you struggle with? Are you able to find the opportunities in the challenge? Have they changed you in ways you didn’t expect? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
The seed of inspiration was planted when I met a man on a chair lift for intermediate runs at Copper Mountain Resort in March. At 68 years old he had just started skiing. As a sixty year old, and a life coach for the past 15 years, I was reminded of my commitment to keep trying new things. I signed up for my five pack of "Get Ready For Golf" lessons.
I had moved into a townhouse on a golf course nine months ago. I had no idea if the birthing process would be successful. I had had false starts in the past. Fifteen years ago I had taken a similar series of golf lessons on a family vacation and ten years ago I had ventured out on a course a few times with my husband. Those earlier experiences had been motivated by other peoples interest. (Think Braxton Hicks contractions in labor.) Now it was time to try it on for me alone.
My first lesson was scheduled to begin at 5:45 pm, early labor, Stage 1.
“Awkward” kicks in before I even leave my house. “Why am I doing this again?” I try to remind myself. I don't know what to wear. I don't have equipment. I don't know how long it will take to walk over to the clubhouse. We're supposed to get there 15 minutes early. Weaving my way through the neighborhood, I arrive 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
Entering the clubhouse, I look around and see a retail shop. Browsing for a few minutes I eventually find my way to the desk where employees are chatting and I ask about my class. "You'll meet in the entry at starting time and get a tour and introductions before heading out on the putting green," I'm told by one of the pros. "Your instructor is still out teaching."
Uncomfortable, I try to keep myself “busy”. I continue shopping, find a bathroom, and then read a local activities guide in the lobby. Meandering back to the retail shop, I look more closely at the shoes, the bags, the clubs, thinking cha-Ching, cha-Ching. “Is this really an investment I want to make? Didn't I read in a Malcolm Gladwell book that it takes 10,000 hours to become good at something. How much energy am I going to put into this?” I think to myself, “If I keep trying new things will I get good at any of them? What am I doing here?” The inner voices babble away.
Finally we gather in the lobby, and introductions are made. Our instructor keeps referring to himself as an old guy. Yea, he's older than me, but not by that much.
All the others are women, probably in their thirties. Two had arrived together, three others had signed up together and then there's me. I'd been chatting with the pair and they adopt me.
When we arrive at the putting green I appreciate that we have a seasoned instructor. His descriptions are meticulous. I love his knowledge, his approach. Yet I can see where my mind is still needing to wrap around what I'm stepping into.
“We’ll focus today on the green and putting.” He has set the course and we have arrived.
My silent inner dialogue begins responding to his verbiage almost immediately. “Putter, yes, putt, putt. I know putt-putt golf, something I loved playing as a child and have gone on to play on Mother's Day for decades. “
“ Once on the green, you should be getting the ball in the hole in no more than two shots, “ the instructor instructs.
"What!?"- yells my inner voice- "In miniature golf you have up to six shots." I’m glad no one can hear what I’m thinking. On to another area where we are introduced to a totally new beast, “chipping”. Awkward. Necessary to the game and something completely new. Lesson 1 ends.
In lesson 2 we head to the driving range. Here is a picture postcard view of the mountains, one that I didn’t see from my townhouse located at the first green, an unexpected gift. My challenge with the 2nd lesson is also unexpected.
From my days as a ski instructor, I knew the ability to transfer skills from one sport to another, could be helpful. I was starting to see these experiences could also require attention to "not" allowing transference. In skiing, the movement begins in the feet. In this sport, once in your golf stance, the movement begins at the shoulders.
There were other non-transferable skills that were showing up. In driving, the swing is different than hitting with a baseball bat. I’m not using the club correctly. More to learn, more to unlearn. This is active labor.
Lesson 3 and we enter transition, the end of active labor. I learned about the swing that will eventually get us onto the course. The long descriptors of the different angles of the body to the shaft of the club, to the ball, to the planes that were aligned with the stroke all made perfect sense when explained. I wish I had recorded it. How many lessons will I have to pay for before I retain all this knowledge?
As I practice what I am told, I realize that while hypothetically I understood what was being said, my retention logged maybe 30%. Not only that, my body wasn't doing what my mind insisted it was.
I tended to not follow through, stopping after the club head made contact with the ball.
Release and follow though. Don’t look up. Practice the swing- even without the ball. “Get used to the motion by lobbing the ball with your hand first.” This instructor can see through all our upcoming bad habits. He is so seasoned. I’m not following through with my swing, so relax and practice the movement.
Having a beginner’s mind means trying to look at things fresh. This “new” swing, where I don’t follow through, isn’t unlike my writing practice right now. I get to a certain point and then I don’t follow through.
Relax and practice the movement.
Lesson 4 and it’s Mothers Day. The weather looks ominous and I know many others won’t be attending. I had spent the morning with my son going out to brunch and the art museum where we saw the Samurai exhibit. “Who am I today?”, I ask myself. “Couch potato” or “Samurai”, “Couch potato” or “Samurai”? Samurai wins. I weather the weather and go to the course. After all, we hadn’t played putt-putt this Mothers Day.
I question my decision during the entire walk to the clubhouse. My instructor is inside, no one else has showed up. Out on the driving range, I question my decision again when I see lightening in the distance. The wind is gusting when I switch my attention entirely to my instructor. I’m now in the pushing stage.
I am getting a private lesson It’s remarkable. After working on my body placement during the swing and hitting a bucket of balls, I get in the golf cart and we head out to the first hole. We end the lesson at the first hole as the rain begins, right next to my home. The body has been delivered.
Lesson 5 is delivery of the placenta, the final phase. I’m ridding myself of the materials that are no longer needed so I can focus next on growing the baby, I’m ending the birthing process.
The lessons, both literally and figuratively, pile up one upon the other as I reflect on the beginner experience. The inspiration to continue has to come from me, not the others who had wanted me to play in the past.
Mentally, golf is a game that begins with the mind. Preparing the body in position, taking aim, preparing stance and posture, then moving. Like skiing, it seems as though you have to adjust your body to what the shot requires. In skiing, there are no two days alike, the conditions of the snow the slope and your body will always be one of a kind combination. There is a zen where you get your mind out of the way, yet you’re very focused in the moment that is exhilarating-freeing and completely connected all at the same time.
I knew in skiing it takes 5000 repetitions to create new muscle memory. These golfing movements were new to me. Part of why I worked so hard to improve in my skiing was because I was basically lazy. The harder you work, the easier it gets. This new adventure was sure to be a journey, an investment of time and energy.
When I improve, I am further inspired. The choices are mine: how much do I want to invest of my resources in this, my time, my energy and my money? It can evolve. I don’t need to overwhelm myself with those to start. Being present is key, that is where the joy lies, and where the development occurs. A beginner is born.
When was the last time you were a beginner? When you close your eyes and get quiet, what image pops up that might set you on a new course? Are you game? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I'd love to hear what inspires you, and you might inspire someone else.
It began like most of my days, at the sink. Sometimes I go right to my chair or cushion to meditate, but more often than not I decide to grab a morning cup of tea and a few sips before I settle in. My distractions begin right away.
At 5:30 am I don’t expect to hear much. But I do live in an interior unit townhome so occasionally sounds seep through. Beep..beep…beep.. gentle, but periodic enough it makes me check my refrigerator door to see if I left it open somehow. No…steeping tea.. beep… beep.. I head back upstairs to my cushion.
Over the next two days, I notice the same noise when I stand at my sink. It’s getting annoying. At first I suspected my neighbor hadn’t been home when his alarm originally went off. Now I’m guessing he’s out of town. Beep…Pause…pause…pause and right when I think it’s going to run out of juice I hear it again. It hasn’t gotten louder, but I seem to be more and more aware of it, getting agitated that it is still ongoing.
What if something happened to him? That could happen to me, living alone. I haven’t driven for a few days, working at home and getting rides where I need to go. Going through the garage to get the mail I notice the beeps again. His neighborhood paper has been there for two days now. What if something happened to him in the garage? Should I do something? I grab the mail and go back into my house.
Next day, out goes the trash. OMG. The beeping is louder. Is it coming from my garage? Is something going to explode? The noise doesn’t seem to be coming from the car itself, but a red light is blinking. I couldn’t tell. Moving the car out to the open parking area, I have some relief. The car did work. Pulling out the manual I look up the warning light which simply reminds me I have auto theft protection working. Oh good, only I can steal my car this way.
Back in the garage I go from the bag of boxes I haven’t unpacked, over to the fuse box, back to the radon system, into the basement, back out to the garage. I can’t seem to locate the beep. I stare at the garage door opener unit; could this be the source?
Grabbing a step ladder I inspect the motorized unit. Nothing obvious, so I go back inside in search of the owners manual. No information on beeping-no flashing lights. I circle the garage again and looking for the source I now know is in MY space.
Googling “Lift Master beeping noise” I finally find a You tube video that leads me to resolution--a battery that needs replacing in the garage opener. I call the number posted by the wall garage door pad for service.
HAHAHA. True confessions to the next three people I talk to. One of them was the technician who came to replace the battery.
The repairman not only replaced the battery, but cleaned the rails and springs and inspected the unit. Calling me in when he was done, I explained how my internal story had unfolded over the past three days.
“ First, I secretly was annoyed with the neighbor. Then I realized I could have left something on beeping. It could have happened during one of my out of town jaunts.
Annoyed…accepting…annoyed…accepting. Worried… worried but not taking action. What drama. Then the investigation. There was no body. “
Yes,” he casually stated. I was guessing he was in his 50’s. “I’ve learned over the years when I’m upset or annoyed, or blame someone else, it’s usually me who is the culprit. I’ve learned to look at myself first. That’s the way it usually works out. ”
He drove a typical fleet truck. He was a clean-cut, well attired technician. He was a guru repair man.
“I” was the irresponsible one. “I” took days to take that responsibility. Even then, it took me two hours trying to get to the bottom of it. “I” finally got the right help. Home ownership again-it’s been awhile.
As usual, this is the “real” drama of my life working even in the most subtle of ways. Working with my physical space, the emotions that arise, figuring it out with my intellect, then letting my spirit have a good laugh- all of us, me, myself and I, working together.
Why the laughter? It’s kind of fun to recognize how human I am. The more I can laugh at me, recognizing how I create my experiences, what a constant source of amusement. I just need to pay attention.