“Just Bring Yourself”.
It’s one of the very first rules of improvisation.
I started taking improv classes at The People’s Improv Theater (The PIT) in New York a couple of years ago. It was something I’d always wanted to try so I finally did it and fell in love with it.
One of my favourite Twitter bios is the one on Yang Miller’s Twitter page:
“As a boy I was bitten by a Copperhead snake and almost died. Later I got bitten by improv comedy and started living.”
I share his passion for it. If you get a chance to try it – even once – please do it! You will laugh more than you have for a very long time, trust me.
The more improv I did, the more I found that the lessons applied to life.
At one of the classes, the teacher said:
“Just bring yourself. You have everything you need.”
Just. Bring. Yourself.
What would that look like for you in your life? It should be easy to answer but it can be incredibly difficult to do so. It can be surprisingly difficult to find your self. Your real self. Not the self you’ve created over all these years to fit in or please others or to get a job you didn’t want in the first place (all purely hypothetical comments, of course).
Your Self. Just Bring Your Self.
What would your self look like? What would your self enjoy? How would your self mother your self’s children? What would your self like to eat for breakfast? Does it seem frivolous for me to ask you what you want for breakfast in the same breath as how do you want to mother your children? I don’t think so. It’s the simple, miniscule decisions we make from moment to moment that create our lives. My children know, for sure, what they want for breakfast every day. Unlike most adults I know, most children I know don’t eat the same breakfast each day because each day, they know what they want for breakfast that day. They can recognise and then ask for what they want for breakfast. Their day starts that way and they articulate and pursue their desires throughout the day.
That, for me, was one of the gifts of becoming a mother. Before you have children, you intellectually “get” that we are all born with certain talents/interests/characteristics. Once you have children and see how they come out of the womb a certain way, uniquely and perfectly formed, you really get on a very deep level that you too came into the world that way. You knew what you loved to do as a child. You were drawn to certain things and would simply follow those natural, instinctive desires wherever they took you.
Then, over the years, you gradually lose touch with that innate ability to know what you love to do. You are taught to conform. To stand in line. To sit behind desks. To be the same. You become someone other than your self.
I felt the need to give birth three times to keep testing this fact and am now the proud and bemused mother of three completely unique individuals who could write an Oprah’s “What I Know For Sure” column about every aspect of their lives with ease. As my oldest daughter approaches age 11, I find myself watching her like a hawk to see if this instinct is waning in any way. In her case, it still seems very much intact.
So the work I do is helping women reconnect with their selves so that they can live life as fully and with the same delight as their children.
For the longest time, I couldn’t quite see how my obsession for the TV show “Law and Order” fit in to that work. It then occurred to me that reconnecting with your self is like detective work. You look back over your life all the way back to your childhood to find the hidden clues and evidence of your self. The things that you love to do, the things that come naturally to you, the things that you lost track of time doing while a child, the things that you miss most from your pre-motherhood days, the things that make you laugh out loud, the things that you could talk about ad nauseum.
The Mama Muse last week talked about play personalities and, if you discovered your play personality, you will have gone a long way to reconnecting with your self. The self you should bring with you at all times.
In the extraordinary book, “Life is a Verb” by Patti Digh, there’s an essay called “Give Free Hugs”. In that essay, Patti writes:
“A friend, Marybeth, recently told me about gathering a group of women from around the country to help her celebrate her birthday – and to help her be more herself – to give her feedback, to embrace her. At one point in the weekend, Marybeth said to the group something like: “I am trying to find my voice.”
Her friend Pat spoke up, giving the kind of honest feedback Marybeth needed and wanted: “I’m so sick and tired of middle-aged white women saying they need to find their voice. I’ve heard that a million times. I just have one question for you: If you did have a voice, what would you say?””
If you did have a voice, what would you say?
In the same way, if you did have a self, who would she be?
As always, I’d love to hear from you.