finding a more authentic, playful life --- finding your story

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Night with Dudley

I recently went back to Minneapolis for a visit and returned to my old stomping ground, Dudley Riggs' Brave New Workshop. I spent many years of my twenties and early thirties there, treading the boards -- or whatever that phrase is...walking the boards? Treading the planks? Whatever. It was my improv home for many a year.

It was loverly to be back. It was opening night of their "best of" show: Attack of the Best of the BNW. It was a very funny show. I laughed. I also felt old. Everyone their was so young...blahblahblah. I'm old.

The founder Dudley Riggs was also there. It was great to see the bow-tied legend again. After catching up and chatting during intermission, I excused myself to use the restroom, turned around and felt a hand brush up against my arse. Did someone just cop a feel?

I turned around to find Dudley still there. I smiled and said, "Dudley, did you just touch my bottom?"

Full stop.

Okay, first of all: who says bottom? Seriously, who says "bottom"? He's not 3 years old! Second of all: I said it almost British-like: Bot-tom. Deed you tach mye Bot-tom Dud-lay? Third of all... WHO SAYS BOTTOM?

Dudley awkwardly admitted to the accidental contact, clearly embarrassed for being called out unnecessarily, or maybe embarrassed because he is a married man in his eighties being accused of sexual harassment, or maybe because any normal person would have let it slide and not said a word about the incidental contact, or maybe because I accused a grown man of touching my BOTTOM!

Who's says bottom?

That's what you get when you return to your ass grab from an icon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From the archives: How My Intuition Saved My Technology!

          My super just left. It’s 4:30 am. And we just took a giant bath together.

          See, over an hour ago I was awoken by a doorbell (strange at 3am in your first night in a new condo). I had been dreaming of swimming and as I put my feet on the floor, I was — there was an inch of water everywhere. Oh my God, what is happening?!

          Apparently, a water pipe piece thingy broke (who knows, whatever) and water had been literally pouring on my floor for hours as I slept. The entire condo was flooded, with my downstairs, doorbell-ringing neighbor experiencing “rain” in his unit.

          The reason I write this story is not just to tell you why I’m up at 4:30 am. (But please note, I am.) No, it’s to tell you that I’m so grateful --- things could have been so much worse. Because I followed my intuition, I saved my technology.
          My mom calls it “a tap on the shoulder” or “angel nudges”, and before I went to bed, I had one. I had been working in bed with both my laptop and cell phone. Ready for bed, and with no bedside table in my new digs, I chose to lay them on the floor until morning. I simply placed both very water-sensitive items on the floor until morning. No biggie. What could happen to them? But as I rolled over to sleep, (pay attention now…) something nudged me. It said, “Pick them up. Put them on the chair.” 

           Through my years of improvisation training and practice (and listening to my mother!), I have learned to heed these universal clues occasionally sent. Improv is all about paying attention to signs, making something out of nothing, listening. In improv, I teach (and learn): Trust your gut! Follow the signs! The training translates to life. I have become a firm believer that all the signs are there. It’s just a matter of whether we notice them or take heed.

           Luckily last night, I took heed and even though I woke up almost under water…my technology was safe. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lessons From an Old Irish Man

I was walking in the park today, kind of in a hurry to get home after my brief respite in the park when I saw an older gentleman sitting on a bench. He was wearing an Irish-looking cap and a nice shirt and pants. I wondered if he was lonely. He reminded me of my grandpa, who is always looking for people to say hi to him or to visit with him for a while. So as I passed by, I paused and said hello to this man on the bench, and after his return greeting and some idle chit-chat about the weather -- sure enough -- he engaged me in deeper conversation. I was a little eager to get home, but recognized his desire for company and relented, allowing myself to be present in this moment.

"Sit down for a bit, why don't you," he offered at last. "I can tell you some stories."

So sit I did. I could tell it made him happy. It was almost as good as sitting with my grandpa.

He talked about how the neighborhood had changed, how if he wasn't smart with his money he would be destitute now since the rents have risen so much. He brought up how important going to mass has been for him and how his family is all gone now, save a son who lives upstate. He talked about the old days working in the post office and how now there's not much to do. He wishes he could be more useful. They asked him to speak at some post office event, but felt he would have nothing to say of interest. I disagreed with him, but it was irrelevant. He thought he had nothing to say, but talk and talk he did.

He asked me very little and could hear even less. (Maybe the two were connected). Most of my comments seemed unnecessary intrusions, so I mostly listened and nodded. I let go of the clock and the to-do list relentlessly forming in my head and just sat with another human being who wanted companionship. And not even for all that long! It wasn't that much to ask after all. We're always in such a hurry, especially in New York. Maybe we need to take more time for those who want a little slice of our time. Just maybe.

I listened and smiled and thought of my grandpa and hoped someone was sitting with him at this moment, spending time with him and providing some company. He also has things to say.

And then, finally, at some lull in the conversation, my day's activities weighing on me, I mentioned I should get going.

"Yes, yes, of course. Well, if you see me sittin' 'ere again, say hello. It was nice to talk to you."

I assured him I would.

Some things he told me and asked me to remember:

1. Save money.
2. Praise the Lord.
3. Keep a sense of humor.
4. Don't smoke or drink: "Look at my teeth! I still got 'em! It's because I never smoked or drank!"
5. Slow down. Life goes by quickly.

...sage advice from an old Irish man.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

5 Ways to Bring More Play to Your Day

[written by Kim Schultz, as published on policymic!]

“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.” - Charles Schaefer

Alarm. Shower. Breakfast. Kids. Kiss. Commute. Work.  Lunch. Calls. Meetings. Commute. Dinner. Family. Television. Sleep.

Sound familiar? Did you breathe? Did you laugh? Did you have fun? Or was it all work?

There is a Japanese term for working yourself to death: Karoshi. Now I’m not saying that’s what you are doing. (There certainly are people in Japan who are. After all, they coined a term.) But how much of your life is work and how much play? Seriously, right now, give me the ugly statistics. 80/20? 70/30? 98/3? (I know, I know! Math, Kim!)

But seriously, what is your life worth and what do you want out of it? More fun? More play? Yeah, me too. Weird you guys, we’re like the same person.

Play is often looked at as frivolous and unnecessary, but more and more studies are coming out touting the value of play and how play leads to happiness and ultimately more productivity and success in work and life. Shawn Achor, in his bestselling book, The Happiness Advantage, wrote, “Companies and leaders who take measures to cultivate a happy workplace will not only have more productive and efficient workers, they’ll have less absenteeism and lower health care expenditures.”

Well, that sounds good, no? He also is quoted as saying, that “every time employees experience a small burst of happiness, they get primed for creativity and innovation. They see solutions they might otherwise have missed.”

Wow! All that from play! So HOW can you bring more play to your day, you ask? Let’s look for some of those “small bursts of happiness.”

1. Surround yourself with people who play and make you happy.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
Nothing like finding/creating your network of like-minded folk. We are only as happy as those around us. Find the laughers and the players.

2. Allow yourself the freedom to fail. You won’t die, I promise.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
We are raised to believe failure is bad. What if you could free yourself from that fear? What might be possible for you? Where are you most afraid?

3. Turn off your devices and look, listen and connect more.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
What are you missing on the subway, in the restaurant, on your walk with your face glued to your smartphone? Turn off, look up, and take in! Life is happening all around you. Enjoy it.

4. Take a risk; do something outside of your comfort zone.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
I know, I know. Your comfort zone is more comfortable. But stretch yourself. What do you want to do? What could you never imagine being brave enough to do? Do it.

5. Laugh more.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
This is the easiest of all. Find more in your life to laugh at. Start with a smile. It grows from there.

So next time you are tempted to accept the status quo, do what you have always done, choose the boring (a.k.a. safe) option, hide in your cell phone, hang out with people who make you unhappy and avoid any and all “small bursts of happiness,” remind yourself to play more, take a chance, look silly and laugh. Your family, friends, boss and heart will thank you. I’m off to take a statistics class now.

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Be the Expert

I've been writing a lot lately: edits of my book, new improv articles for policymic, posts for this blog, tweets. The list goes on and on. It's funny. In the last year, I have been primarily a writer. I have never been primarily a writer. I have always been an actor/writer/teacher or just an actor/teacher or just an actor, but never just a writer. Man, I write! And I seem to be writing a lot. I already know what my next 2 books will be about! I'm a writer!

12 years ago, somebody told me I wasn't a writer. They told me I was great on stage, but wasn't that strong of a writer. I believed them and gave up. Better I just act and let the writers write. Well, it turns out I can write. I just didn't have the skills, trust, tools, confidence, or fill in the blank.

Now I confidently call myself a writer. Writers write. That's how they are defined. I write, therefore I am a writer. So my question for you is: what skill/passion/desire do you want to call yourself, but are too afraid?

In improv, its called, be the expert. Say you are that person and you will take steps that make you more of that person. By declaring yourself to be that person, saying yes to it, you actually become it. It actually works because you think, speak and act from what that person would do and say. Try it. Be the expert...and in time you will be.