Sunday, November 10, 2019

Nine miles outside the comfort zone

Little wonder people retreat more and more to their comfort zones when they get older, even though they may know: real life is happening outside its borders. Beyond this place of comfort lies experiences waiting to be discovered, circumstances that quicken our spiritual growth, a reality that allows us to be far more than we are allowing ourselves to be.

Piss. You’d think it’d get easier with age.

Lying on the floor in front of the couch watching TV is so satisfying on so many levels, none of which is very invigorating. Shopping is another item which promises a lot more than it delivers. As frustrating as it sounds, stepping outside your imagined boundaries is the only way to get a glimpse of your true grandiosity. I guess the old adage: no pain, no gain, really does apply.

Boo. A hot soak in the tub sounds so much more inviting.

A born dancer, I ended my career 13 years ago at the age of 57. Not a difficult decision that was made for me when the last curtain came down on the show I’d been dancing in for 10 years, a yearly, one-month tour through the bowels of Bavaria. A small show with me as the only dancer, two actors and a five-man band of Bavarian rock musicians.

You can imagine my surprise when the phone rang last year, almost 12 years after the group disbanded.

It was a journey out of my comfort zone into a world of fears, anxieties, and debilitating mind fucks I never knew existed.

Here’s the story:


Since I committed to doing the new production of the Bayerische Rauhnacht, (Ghouls Night Out, Bavaria's Harsh Winter Nights), more fears have surfaced than in the past decade. And, why not? The process from beginning to end has blown my comfort zone to smithereens. From the first day, a horde of uncomfortable situations and fears appeared.  (What are fears but unhandled dross, imagined blocks to experiencing the Light of our true virtue? And, the only way to remove those imagined barriers is to acknowledge them and let them go.

 First and foremost was the fear my aging body wouldn’t live up to the demands I’d be placing on it. After all, I’m 68, four years older than my deceased grandfather. Heart attacks happen in this age group.  Imagine going into cardiac arrest in the middle of one of my dance numbers. Aside from the possibility of death, I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing. Or, what if the muscles in my legs give out in one of the dance combinations I’d executed with ease twelve years before? Would someone be there to drag me off stage? Or, horror of horrors, what if I found out someone in the audience wondered why I hadn’t hung up my dance shoes decades before. Nothing more pitiful than an artist beating the dead horse of his career.

Even if I did get through the physical exertions, who’s to say what tricks my mind might play? For instance: what if I had a blackout in the middle of one of the numbers. I mean, twelve years ago I had no trouble remembering where I left the keys after I came home. Two weeks ago, I finally found them in the refrigerator. Twelve years ago random objects weren’t disappearing and then reappearing as they do today. Sad but true, my memory like my eyesight seems to have taken off for happier hunting grounds as of late. Especially when I need it the most. Like, when I am trying to remember my best friend’s name, find the perfect word in one of my writings, recall the second half of a yoga routine I am offering my students. My photographic memory is a thing of the past. What, then, would happen if I had a blackout on opening night, left running around the stage like dingbat in Bedlam?

The rehearsal dates were getting closer and closer.

Although I’d trained regularly both with weights and yoga these past twelve years, since I’ve committed to the production, I’ve taken my work out to a new level: getting my heartbeat up to 140 and keeping it there a half an hour, pushing my lungs to their limit three times a week, sweating like a popsicle at the beach, all in the hopes it would make the routines easier when the time came along.

The day after the first rehearsal, I was horrified to find myself heaving at the side of the stage, unable to gulp down enough air to quiet my racing heart.  Despite my efforts on the treadmill at the fitness studio, my stamina, as far as my breath was concerned, was in the bucket. Would three days of rehearsals be enough to better the condition enough that I could take my bow on my feet and not on my stomach?

As if all these worries and fears were not enough, my husband started coughing two days into rehearsals. Which meant, it was only a matter of minutes before I came down with the same illness, whatever it was. Since we both reached older age, the pattern has been: he comes down with something, two days later it’s my turn… which would be opening night. As it was, I could hardly catch my breath after one of the numbers. With a cold… well, that was something better not thought about.

And then, it was opening night…

…and everything went fine.

A Course in Miracles says,

The presence of fear is a sure sign that you are trusting in your own strength. The awareness that there is nothing to fear shows that somewhere in your mind, not necessarily in a place which you recognize as yet, you have remembered God and let His Strength take the place of yours. The instant you are willing to do this there is indeed nothing to fear.

I wish I'd remembered that a couple of weeks ago!

To be continued…

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