Tuesday, December 10, 2013

You Need To Know This: Be Flexible

The next installment in the You Need To Know This series has been chosen by Nate Golden (www.nategolden.com). If you live in Philadelphia, you can see Nate this holiday season all over town, either as Fred/Young Scrooge in the Walnut St. Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol, or on the gigundo video wall at the Comcast Center as part of the Holiday Spectacular. I saw last year's version with Jiu-Jian Kenn and it was fun, more fun than I expected!

I've worked with Nate as a performer and I've worked with Nate as a student. Of course he's talented, but more than that, he is smart about his career and he has a work ethic that doesn't quit. Nate has chosen:

Be Flexible

Some years back, I attended a wedding shower for my dear friends Jean and Bob. Instead of playing those silly Guess the Spices and Wear Bows on Your Head games, the hostess asked every person in the room to spontaneously give Jean and Bob one piece of advice to take into their marriage. I always get nervous at moments like this. Will I say the right thing? Will I say the best thing? What if my advice sounds silly? I'm sure it will sound silly. Can't I think about it and get back to you?

Spontaneously I blurted out, “be flexible”.

And as I'm writing this, on a rainy November day all these years later, I recognize that the seed for this post was planted that day.

Be flexible. Yes. That was the best advice I could give to two wonderful humans who also happen to be talented and creative. And it is still some of the best advice I can give.

What? Be flexible? Wait, Heidi, you've been telling us to get out act together, to have a plan and patiently persist.

You're right. I have some explaining to do before one of you catches me in my internet web of lies and deceit. Let's talk about that plan. If you followed my advice, that plan has now been in your life for some time. And if you haven't recently, now, yes NOW, would be a good time to pull it out of the file and take a look. Go ahead. I'll wait.

What'd you find? Let me guess. Some “Oh yay, I did that!”. Some “Oh no, not THAT one.”. Some “Well, that one didn't happen because.....” and there you go. Life presented some unexpected happening and threw your plan off. The unexpected happening wasn't necessarily negative, in fact, there is a good chance it was positive. What's important right now is to recognize that it threw off DA PLAN.

Congratulations. You were flexible. Something changed and you went with it. Go have a cookie. Then come back.

Because now we have to talk about how you handled that change. Did it freak you out, even though it was something you always wanted? Yup, change is a tough one. But you better get used to it, because a Creatavita is nothing but a whole lotta change.

Look, living a Creatavita is atypical. The path curves, straightens, drops precipitously into a valley and in an instant, rapidly ascends. A non-flexible approach guarantees the simultaneous convergence of a severe case of whiplash and the Bends. Both can lead to pain and in severe cases, death. Death of your soul. Yuck.

When you allow a flexible approach to take over, there's a good chance, that without even being aware, you'll stay more open to the world around you. Staying open is tough, but that's when the living really starts. You meet new people, you consider other possibilities, you experience a different vision of your life. Words like “I hadn't thought of that before” start to fall out of your mouth. Confidence wells up from deep inside of you as you allow yourself to accept or NOT accept opportunities. Phrases such as “Me? Do that? You're crazy!” are replaced with phrases such as “Wow. I never thought of myself doing that. Thanks for that perspective.”

How to cultivate flexibility? Well, start with those around you. We all need a little space now and then. Start by being more generous to the people in your life. They don't make it easy, I know, but seek out those moments when your flexibility works in the best interests of everyone. Isn't that what is called a win-win situation? Yeah, be a champion of the win-win situations. Don't worry, you'll find them.

Be flexible with your creativity. We get so wrapped up in wanting to be recognized as a great fill-in-the-blank that we often lose the very seeds of what attracted us to being creative in the first place. Step back from your art form and try a different one. Go see a performance of some art form that is completely foreign to you. Allow other creative forms and people to inform your work.  Trust your collaborators; try their ideas, even if it seems completely wacky.  You can always to return to what you were doing before.

And above all, be flexible with yourself. We can be so hard on ourselves, can't we? All because we want those dreams to come true. Yet we need to practice recognizing the unexpected opportunities that appear in our lives, because they just might be the ones we really should be embracing.

This is also a good time for me to plant this next little seed because I just know this topic is going to come up here at Creatavita. Being flexible with yourself is one thing. But flexibility when you're in a relationship? That's a whole new ballgame with a whole new field and a whole new set of rules. What can I say? Ask on the first date, “hey, are you flexible?” Good chance that'll get misconstrued, isn't there?

Here's what I can say. Live with the intention that you are going to be as honest and open as possible, not only with those around you, but also with yourself. Recognize that life is not about controlling people and circumstances; rather, it is about surrounding yourself with the circumstances and people who help you thrive, as a person and as an artist. That is what is really important.

That's it, friends. Live well. Keep breathing. Be flexible.