I’m in my last week of rehearsal before tech for The Sadness of Small Cakes and I’m freaking out. Not because the show isn’t where it should be, and not because any one element in particular is behind the times, but because I have this impending sense of deadline doom in the form of opening night. And also maybe because the moment is fast approaching when I have to let this project go, both in terms of letting the actors take the show out of my hands, and in terms of the production closing and being put to bed in just 17 days.
There is nothing that I can do to stop this. This production, like all productions, must leave the nest. And, this production, like all productions, must close. Me working myself up into a tizzy at each rehearsal, trying to fit in as much as possible isn’t going to change anything. I need to slow the fuck down. I need—and I want—to stop sacrificing my health and my sanity, not to mention my personal relationships, to the trickster gods of “maybe if I do more it’ll be better.”
So I’m trying to take time. To breathe, to stretch, to take a walk. To call that friend whose voicemail I haven’t responded to yet. To cook dinner instead of heating up a veggie burger. I know that these are the “stress less” tips that appear in women’s magazines across the board, but hey, it’s good advice. Especially when I don’t make them another task, another thing to “do better.”
Although those close to me may not always believe it, I am trying to approach “not freaking out” as a lifestyle choice, both in this moment and overall (because yes, I tend to freak out sometimes even when there’s not a show in the works). I think it’s kind of similar to approaching “diet” as an overall way of eating rather than a strict regimen with a fancy name and special products. I’m trying to let go of my death grip on “productivity” and “getting xyz right” in favor of being a whole person who has ups and downs, strengths, and weaknesses, but who manages to navigate those ebbs and flows without drowning in the extremes on either side.
For those of you who have heard me talk about personal practice, this is part of what I mean: finding those practices, those attitudes, that sense of awareness, that help bring balance to your life; cultivating those actions and those habits that support you and your sense of well-being.
As an artist, I feel that finding and nurturing a sense of personal practice—which is maybe also practicing being you in your ideal form?—is vital to the artistic life. So many of us work with high highs and low lows, with intense activity and total lulls, with great passion and huge creative blocks. While this is certainly all tied up in the romance of being an artiste, it can get bloody annoying to live through it year after year. It doesn’t feel sustainable, and it certainly doesn’t feel like it encourages growth. I think personal practice can help even out the transitions between these states and these moments. I think that shifting some of our focus to caring for ourselves as people, and letting a little light into the “all art, all the time” mentality that sometimes takes hold, is a good thing. A positive and productive thing. And maybe even the best thing for the continued creation and excellence of our artistic endeavors.