[Newsletter Series (#7)]
It seems that overnight, my almost-11 years old son has turned into an almost-teenager. There are talks of girls and begging for a phone; shoulder shrugs when I ask about his day and more and more time in his bedroom listening to music through the ear buds he borrowed.
Change. Lots of it. All of a sudden.
I performed at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley earlier this week. I’d written a piece about parenting in the age of Alexa and digital screens, and planned to do more of a literary reading than a rehearsed show. But while I sat backstage in the green room with the rest of the cast, I learned quickly that everyone else had memorized their work and were seemingly prepared to be better, stronger, funnier than I’d be, stumbling around on stage with my 8.5x11 typed script in hand. I was surprised and uncomfortable at first. Then I realized that using all of the stage for more of a performative delivery would “make up” for my simply reading words on a page behind a podium. In that moment, I had to (ahem…) improvise.
Change. Real time shifts. Agility.
During business meetings, when the client asks us to shuffle the order of our well-planned presentation, even though we’ve practiced it this way for weeks.
At home, when we’ve planned dinner for six and two times that many show up.
With friends, when we expect easy going, relaxed conversation and get tense, angsty gossip instead.
Embracing change is the second “E” in my Aliveness scaffolding, and so much on stage and in life is dependent on this skill. All we have is right now. And in this moment, literally anything can happen. No warning signs, no heads up. Just the cold, hard truth that unexpected change is usually...right around the corner, and we have no control over it.
We’ve talked about improvisers accepting “offers” as gifts in order to push the story forward. Embracing change is certainly part of that same skill set, but with an added layer of agility and adapting to disruption. A storyline takes an unexpected turn, or characters start calling each other by the wrong names; players lose their focus and the dialogue goes awry.
What then? Do they break character and apologize to the audience? Do they sigh and eye roll at each other, showing their disdain for the mistake? No. They adapt and course correct and move on.
This is about holding onto our internal narratives a little less tightly, so we can lean into the ideas/suggestions/directives of others. Of course, there are no guarantees of outcome when we loosen our own control. But sometimes that can be totally and completely awe--some. Different views and perspectives emerge, brainstorming session take off, literary readings at the Sweetwater transform into a full on shows!
And pssst...I’m not saying any of this is easy, which is why improv learning is such a useful practice. But embracing change is probably the most impactful skills to know in life, business, community and relationship. Especially since we’re all running around this world together, totally unscripted.
Who knows what’s going to happen next!