It has been a long and very interesting year. I memorialized my mother, supported my husband as he opened a film, found a dream job, helped produce Austin’s first 14/48 Festival, deepened my activism and was able to attend several amazing conferences and trainings (and a few coming up).
And our son started high school.
Next year looks to be a doozy as well, with BedPosts doing a mashup with Soundtrack Series, getting to perform at SXSW and the Alamo, and some fantastic events, conferences, and art installations happening with the Women’s Center throughout the year.
I’m pleased and proud of all of that and I’m exceptionally grateful that I get to be small piece of a big picture of change and social justice.
I get tired, though.
A long time ago, I was talking with an improv colleague, discussing the idea of taking periodic breaks from artistic pursuits.
He said something to the effect of him believing in breaks for others, but not for himself. At the time, I didn’t ask him why he believed that, because I was kind of laughing out loud at how familiar the words were. I could have been talking to myself based on the itchiness I feel when I don’t know what the next gig is gonna be.
I’m not sure if this is a trait particular to the creative arts, or all work that involves self promotion and free-lance, but the drive to “find the next gig” seems common. And the majority of us are not even doing this for a living. For a life maybe, but not a living. Most of us do this for the sheer love of it, for the creation, and for the community, not for our livelihood.
And it’s not just art, the constant call occurs during activism, too. I see loads of my fellow advocates working their tails off and needing rest, and we often don’t do self care enough.
Why avoid breaks? If gaps in work doesn’t equal loss of financial support, then is it “busy and booked” as status? Is it a sense of overgrown ambition? Or is it perhaps a basic existential fear of being of becoming irrelevant, of being replaced, of missing out somehow?
And with social justice work, it’s not that necessarily (though it can be about ego), but it’s this awareness that The. Work. Doesn’t. Stop. And it needs all hands on deck to keep moving. Or so it seems. So, it is.
There is a relief in realizing that there are many working on the same goal. There is a deep feeling of needing to stay awake, stay active, stay working though and that can lead to burn out.
Rest is important. Letting the soul renew is vital. And even more comfortingly, the health of a community should be mirrored in it’s ability to weather change, the comings and goings of this director or that producer, and this leader and that activist, the resting of one should not make or break the community as a whole, it should strengthen it.
So, that was one thing I’ve though about over the years, in regards to my reaction to our conversation. And I’ve taken breaks from theater, and from the work, but coming back always seems stronger.
I found theater again after big breaks in my life, (or it found me, more accurately. Theater hadn’t gone anywhere, I had). If anything the experience has been more joyful, more thoughtful, more focused now than anything I did in college or after. The difference is that my schedule is tighter, my life and domestic responsibilities are heavier yet richer, still. That in and of itself makes the time spent with shows and the people in them even more precious and valuable.
I like working. I hear the “call of the gig” and of the work in my head, I want to be involved. I still have the energy to get up and work. I hear the call. I will not ignore the role I play in helping the world.
But, as I’ve aged, I’m more willing to trust that “the gig” is actually my life (breaks included) and that theater ain’t going anywhere. Activism surely isn’t, and calls just keep ringing like a phone. Besides, it’s not all up to me, not even close. I am connected to communities with moving parts but I fit in where and when I can. My work and my relationships are determined by the desire I have inside me, available to me. And rest is necessary to allow that desire to build.
Breaks allow ideas to sprout, alfalfa like, from fields which need to lie fallow, at least for a time.
Winter is a good time to rest. Year’s end is a good time to look back and then forward, like Janus. And lying fallow helps the fields ready themselves for Spring.