Bwops, Cardinal Feathers, and Ledges

The Facts:

Yesterday, I went to improv class. I was freaking out beforehand. After what happened on Monday, I was scared to ever walk into that room again. I was going to show up 20 minutes early as usual, but then I started to get the symptoms of a panic attack, so I took a walk around campus to calm down. I walked back into the room, and within 3 minutes, my eyes were watering again. Class began, and we started to discuss Monday’s performance. It turned out everyone was having just about the same problems I was during the show, and we decided that we all needed to work on trusting each other more, and forcing ourselves into those situations where we know we have absolutely no ideas, but know we need to save the people on stage. The question the professor asked next was the one for which my answer greatly differed from the rest of the class. He asked us if our friends liked the show, and while everyone else said yes, I said the truth. “My friends hated it and aren’t really speaking to me anymore.” The whole class was absolutely shocked. I told them about the guy who lectured me for two hours about how immature, crude, and disgusting my class was and how he was concerned for my spiritual well-being after being around that, and then I told them about my other friend, whose mother is no longer letting her speak to me. They all were really concerned and told me repeatedly that it wasn’t my fault, they were the ones who started the questionable scenes, and my friends were the ones who chose to come even though they knew the show could become a bit inappropriate. Finally, one guy asked “Are YOU upset with us for what happened?”, to which I was able to truthfully respond “No, I’m not.”. They continued to offer their support, and we kept talking for at least an hour. Rather than type the whole conversation, I’ll just type the key points:

-Despite my previous thoughts, the people in my class are amazing and have my back no matter what happens

-When you are on a stage, you are a character, not yourself, and if an audience member can’t see that, that’s their fault, not yours

-A true friend will not leave you or bash your other friends based on one encounter with you/them

After that long conversation, we started doing trust exercises to rebuild what was lost in that show. The first time we did trust falls at the beginning of the semester, I was very hesitant to participate. After the conversation about the show, I knew there was no way they would let me fall. The first set of basic trust falls I did was with the girl in my class who is a junior. It went well, but my right knee kept instinctually  bending to catch myself. I ended up crossing that leg over the other to prove that I trusted her, though truthfully I was still a little nervous. The next set of trust falls was with one of the freshman girls, and she eliminated all my fears. Every time one of us would be caught or reset, she would shout either “Bwop!” or “Bwoop!” which made me laugh so hard I couldn’t even think of being scared. The last exercise the group did was falling off of a chair into the arms of the whole group, and I completely refused to do this at the beginning of the semester. Yesterday, I decided to do it. They caught me.

Once improv class was over, I went to my great-grandmother’s house. My mom and brother came up with a craft idea to do with my great-grandma to give as a gift to her children. They had slabs of clay which she could press her hand into so they could make cardinals. This part is really difficult to explain, so I’ll just include a picture of a similar project I found online:

cardinal-hands

They made that, but with just one bird on each slab. My great grandmother absolutely loves birds, and there’s a legend that says every time you see a cardinal, it’s a spirit of a loved one that has passed away coming to visit you. My mom wanted to make this craft with her to give to her children as something to remember her by for this reason, and because she thought being able to put their hands in the imprints in the clay might be like getting to hold their mom’s hand again.When they started to work on the craft, I finally saw how weak my great grandmother had gotten after choosing to quit trying treatments for her cancer. She used to rush to help with anything, but this time it took ten minutes of coaxing for her to get up. When she tried to press her hand into the clay, it didn’t make a mark. Then she tried again, and also pushed on that hand with her left hand. Only the top two digits of each of her fingers was imprinted into the clay, just the feathers of the cardinal.

Today, my great-grandma went to a hair appointment, so while she was gone, my mom, brother, and I went hiking. We found a really nice 1.2 mile trail to hike on that even included a rock scramble, which is my favorite part of hiking. I was quite a bit ahead of them for most of the path, but just as we were about to reach the peak, I freaked out and had to stop. There was a tiny ledge, only about two feet wide, that was the next section of the trail. To the left was a large rock, about six feet tall, and to the right was a 70 foot drop. This section only lasted for about five feet, but that was still too much for me. I have a huge fear of falling. I went back a few feet and found another path that lead to the same spot but was on much wider rocks. I made it through the rest of the trail with no problems, but that instance still had me super tense, so the second I got back to the car, I collapsed in tears.

Stream of Consciousness:

Yesterday made me realize there is no way I can withdraw from improv. I’ll keep showing up early, and I’ll enjoy every second I have with those people. I’ll go back to hoping I run into someone I know or make a new friend on my aimless campus walks. I won’t let something as simple as a squirrel cause my eyes to water. I won’t cry, I can keep it together. I’m not as much of an outsider as I thought I was. Another one of the girls in my class refused to fall off of the chair the first time, and she had tears in her eyes when she fell yesterday. The situations where we have absolutely no clue what we are doing can be the best scenes we do. Our only job is to support the people on stage in whatever ways necessary just as we want to be supported by our fellow performers. I wish I could have hung out with people after class yesterday. My so-called friends don’t understand improv. I need to reevaluate my life and figure out who my real friends are and what’s really important. The only people who are really disgusting are the ones who think they have the right to tell you how to live your life. The ones who think they know everything there is to know about how to survive the world will be the first to fall once exposed to reality. My friend’s mother who will no longer let her daughter talk to me because of the show would lose her head if she knew half the things her daughter reads online. If that boy I used to call my friend doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, then it just makes my decision to shut him out of my life that much easier. My new friends might not be perfect, but they care that I’m doing okay as a person, not as some cookie-cutter, pristine little Catholic girl. An improv show with an unpredictable, likely PG-13 or worse rating means an improv show with a unpredictable, likely PG-13 or worse rating. I’m going to survive college, but I don’t know if I can say the same for those so-called friends. I don’t have to be fake or over-exaggerate any aspect of my personality when I’m around my college friends. They cared enough to talk with me for an hour to make sure I was doing okay after those so-called friends caused a ton of unnecessary drama in my life. There won’t be any revenge, I’m just going to move on. I’m glad I didn’t say something stupid and burn bridges with the people in my class on the rough days. No matter what happens, theatre is just theatre and none of it is really real. The audience can’t screw you over and neither can your fellow improvisers, only you have the power to truly ruin your scene. IT’S NOT REALLY YOU UP THERE, IT’S A CHARACTER THAT DIES WHEN THE SHOW ENDS. Fake friends have no business telling you how to live your life based on something they saw in a fake character. I CAN DO THIS. I trusted my classmates the second they cared more about something that it was important to me than someone I had told some of my biggest secrets to. Improv gave me more friends than it took away. I will not hesitate. The only time one of them will ever let me fall is if it’s to save everyone else, and I’m okay with that and can trust them to make that decision. I proved that when I refused to let my own reflexes catch me at the last second. I will make myself trust them. I’m still a little nervous, and I think that’s still too much. I can be as goofy as I want and there’s no judgement, and that’s freedom. No one even glanced over when the freshman girl would shout “Bwoop!” or “Bwop!” because it was just a way to improve the situation. Trust is the only safety net there is in improv. My favorite person in the class skipped class yesterday because he had to go to a soccer game. I wish he could have there to see me fearlessly fall off the chair.

I went to see a little bit of that guy’s soccer game yesterday in between improv class and leaving for my great-grandmother’s house. I don’t know why I don’t feel any emotion over what’s happening with my great-grandmother. Today I noticed that her smile is missing a few teeth. If the legend about cardinals is true, I wonder who comes to visit me. I still need to get some beeswax. My great-grandmother used to love doing anything, especially craft projects, as long as it involved spending time with the ones she loved. I wonder if anyone ever thinks about Meghan, my miscarried older sister. I wonder what my great aunts and uncles will think of the clay hand cardinals. They might think it’s weird but just not know how to say the words. I don’t know what I’d do without my mom if she passes before I do. One of my great aunts, the youngest of my great-grandmother’s children, thinks her mom doesn’t understand the ramifications of the decision she made. Her stories are starting to get all jumbled up, with memories from things that happened in different decades all blending together. My great uncle didn’t help her up from her chair last night when she asked, he just walked past, and I thought she was going to cry. Her hands were so weak they barely left a mark in the wet clay. I hope they’ll still be able to make the cardinals. Someone in the family might appreciate them.

My mom thinks I’m mad at her way more often then I actually am, and that makes me sad. I get mad at my brother and my dad very easily, but rarely ever am actually mad at my mom. I wonder if she worried when we were doing the rock scramble. I thought she was going to fall and started crying while I was stopped next to the ledge, but I told her it was just the wind in my eyes and to be careful. I need to exercise more often. There needed to be a guard rail or something next to that ledge. I survived nearly having a severe panic attack on top of a mountain. Why is everything I find fun so dangerous? I don’t like going downhill on steep mountain trails because it hurts my legs even worse than uphill and it’s so much easier to trip. I need to find a way to relax other than just writing on this blog every night. I also need to stop crying so much.

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