She reached out to me as I was passing by her in the sitting area of my acting studio. “I remember you,” she smiled. “You came into class once and we did repetition together. I remember that I found you intimidating. You’re a force, that’s for sure.”
I wasn’t taken aback. I’d heard that same, “you’re intimidating” comment countless times from classmates during the Meisner repetition exercise over the past few years. What some people see as confidence, strength and power, others see as something to be afraid of because they don’t possess it (yet). It didn’t bother me and I didn’t take it personally.
But, until last night, I had never connected the dots as to its true meaning.
Margaret (not her real name) and I were together at a lecture given by a new audition acting coach in town. This is a guy who has worked with top talent for the past 40 years and has acted with Meryl Streep and Robert Duvall, to name just two. Although he’s an easygoing, fun-loving dude, he’s also no-nonsense and has no interest in working with lame-asses. And I know that because he told us so.
All fired up by the end of the lecture at the prospect of being trained by a top professional, I went over to Margaret, smiling, and said, “SO….are you ready to jump in?”
“I don’t know,” she demurred. “He intimidates me.”
I took a moment to take in what she’d said.
“So, let me get this straight,” I said. “I intimidate you. He intimidates you.” The problem isn’t that we’re intimidating. It’s that you’re intimidated.
“Well,” she explained. “I grew up Catholic. I wasn’t supposed to be seen. Wasn’t supposed to be heard. Wasn’t supposed to ruffle any feathers.”
(I must point out at this juncture that Margaret appeared to be about 65 years old).
“Okay”, I said. “But how much longer do you want to live there? That’s an old story that you’re letting drive your life and your happiness. That story has nothing to do with letting yourself take these audition classes now. You came here tonight for a reason and I don’t think it was to keep doing what you’ve been doing.”
I was on a roll…..”I don’t know about you, Margaret, but I live like there’s no time to lose. Because there isn’t. And that’s a fact no matter what age you are.”
Margaret looked slightly frightened. “I know,” she squeaked. “I know.”
“Well if you know, then sign up for the class.” (I smiled big so as not to be too intimidating.)
Sadly, so many people live lives of resignation, believing that it’s “easier” to just blame your crappy parents or your age or your race or your weight or your lack of education or your bad teeth or your fat ass or your lack of money or your catholic upbringing and then, to call out other people as intimidating so you can continue to wither on the vine – so you can feel “safe”.
Margaret walked away, dragging her leaden story of her Catholic childhood behind her. In my heart, I know that if Margaret had the guts to admit that she was intimidated, and then, to ask herself why and then to pursue the answer to the end, no matter what, she could be free to have what she came last night to get.
To not not do so and to allow the self-fabricated, meaningless illusion of fear drive your life right up to its last gasp is a life poorly lived, and, an incarnation wasted. Most of all, it makes me feel sad.
I’m standing firm that I may see Margaret show up in class one day in the near future.
But the way she backed away from me and out of the room last night tells me that I probably won’t.
What about you? What old story are YOU dragging around that’s preventing you from living a life of your own making?