Journey to Courage
In theatre school around year 2 I remember someone asking how you handle the pressure of roles and the work and our professor told us a story about when he was in school and was playing the role of Romeo. On opening night he said he was in his pre-show position set and hidden on stage and the audience was coming into the theatre and then he said he started to panic. He thought to himself “how the hell am I supposed to do this?! Romeo is a giant role, how did I get myself into this and how am I going to do this?!" He said he took a few breaths and remembered all he had to do was say the first line - he just had to start the journey.
I really like that story, something about the way Tom told it to us. The honesty, the vulnerability, the acknowledgment to share what we do is scary.
I had the fortune of seeing Tracey Powers Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen last night at the Firehall and I recommend you see it for similar reasons. For the music of course, but specifically the arrangements, they were thoughtful and brought many a smiles to my face. The pairing of the sound with the movement was elegant, rooted and mesmerizing. The ensemble was incredible moving and saturated in talent. What keeps echoing today is the vulnerability of the storytelling, acting is so revealing and takes so much courage and I loved watching the brave and rich talent of the fearless cast and the power of Tracey’s leadership.
Shout out to my pal Adrian Glynn leading the story, people you need to go listen to his music here and find more about him here pronto. I have no idea why he isn’t the most famous person I know because he is an incredibly talented songwriter and a hauntingly good singer and storyteller.
In a society where I think we are facing a vulnerability scarcity, getting to bear witness to community members embracing the risk to journey towards courage, is one of my most favourite things to do these days. Artists do it a lot, as I was fortunate enough to see last night, and our best art is when we’re the most vulnerable. I’m finding that a lot with my writing. Kamloopa is not just my spirit reflected in story - it’s my gut, it’s coming from the belly of who I am and I’m terrified about people seeing it.
But like that good kind of terrified, like the terror you feel going upwards on a rollercoaster, the terror you feel when Virtue and Moyer have to kill it in their long program, the terror you feel right before someone buys a round of fireball right before closing. The terror like right before the good kind of trouble is charging you.
I find that athletes are also super vulnerable which is probably why I love being around them. About 4 years ago I started Head Coaching the Vancouver Murder Mens’ roller derby team and we did some pretty rad things. We were the first team in Canadian roller derby to go to Championships, we had the only upset of beating a higher ranked team at our first Champs showing. At one point we were ranked 6th in the world for Men’s roller derby and the Murder are still the most accomplished team in Canadian roller derby history.
I attribute a lot of that success to the skaters we bought into the program that I designed which relied heavily on working and training what I call cognitive fitness. We trained not only our physical bodies and skill sets but we trained our brains so we had better mental endurance. We did breathing, meditating and visualization throughout practices, I had the skaters create mantras which were sets of 3 goals with physical attributes - boxers do this a lot, you see them shadow boxing and going over moves.
I encouraged them to do meditations and box breath breathing as much as they could outside training, and to even hold mental practices where they visualized themselves accomplishing skills mentally. Now this was not the easiest thing to teach to grown ass men who already doubted my ability to lead them, it took trust and the vulnerability to close their eyes and take the risk with me.
And it worked, in our last season of regular game play we were major injury free, and thats a bonkers statistic in roller derby where on average you have at least one broken bone a season.
I’ve taken this cognitive fitness training to my job as Head Coach for Team Canada and I’m seeing similar results, on and off the track. The athletes are able to communicate more effectively in high stress situations, I find they have more agency and they have tools to be accountable for their own performances. What excites me about this is the control of impact on their skating.
Brendon sent me this video the other day saying “that’s you Kim.”
I laughed and agreed. But what I love about this is what changes in the last attempt, she didn’t all of a sudden grow or get more muscles, she didn’t go away and train physically, she mentally engages and focuses. The power of our mental abilities to impact our physicality always astounds me. She thinks and she does. Also that celebration is brilliant, it’s almost what I live for.
I’m writing this from a plane heading from Coast Salish territory back to Mohawk territory for the 3rd module in the Cultural Leadership Program I’m participating in. Then I’m off to Barcelona to coach Team Canada Men’s Roller Derby Team at the 2018 World Cup. Then off to Berlin and then off to Banff for the playwrights lab.
I’ve got quite the journey ahead and to combat the terror I’m mediating on the fact that I’ve just got to start with the first line and the journey will take care of itself.
To those courageously embracing vulnerability,
Book club recommendation is David Chariandy’s 2017 The Writers Trust of Canada Prize winning book, Brother. I just finished reading it on the plane and I feel like it’s long form poetry. It is one of the most thoughtful pieces of literature I’ve ever read. You can buy yourself a copy here.
there is a man playing a discman, with bright yellow Corona headphones across the aisle and he has been chair dancing almost the entire plane ride and I love him so much.