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July 14, 2020
What gets you up in the morning?
"During a time when reality is confined within the same four walls every day, we need hope to keep the dreams alive."
What gets me up in the morning? Especially during a global pandemic? Off the top of my head, I can think of two things. This first is coffee. When everything is uncertain, there is one thing that I can guarantee will be there each morning (as long as I make it): cofffeeee. The other thing is less tangible. It’s what makes the actor go onstage each night, knowing the play will end in tragedy but imagining that this time might be different. It’s what turns every figure in the distance into a certain someone. It’s what gets Charlie Chaplin off the crate after the circus has left him behind and makes him click his heels as he walks away. It’s hope. During a time when reality is confined within the same four walls every day, we need hope to keep the dreams alive. This is a time when fantasy is more important than reality. As humans, we’re storytellers. Whether we do it through our art or something else, we are constantly telling stories: “I like this. I don’t want that. If I do this, I’ll feel that.” Why not embellish our stories with hope?
An acting/clown teacher of mine, Gabe Levey, has an exercise where you imagine a dream and a nightmare scenario. First, he asks us to imagine what the best possible thing to happen in this moment would be. Maybe it’s a unicorn coming through the wall and taking you away to a huge pile of money. Maybe it’s simply being surrounded by loved ones. Then he asks us to imagine the worst thing that could happen in this moment. Sometimes this is easier to imagine, especially when pleasure and happiness can feel out of reach. After we’ve fully experienced both, we pick ourselves off the floor and make our way to somewhere in between the nightmare and the dream. This, he tells us, is where we mostly live our lives.
I sometimes think of it like walking a tightrope. You could fall or you could continue to walk ahead and eventually reach the landing. It’s the story we decide to believe that pushes us over or keeps us steady. Why not proceed with hope? So it’s a little windy. You focus, find your balance and hope that you’ll make it across to safety. Or you hope that today might be the day you do see the person you’ve been trying to make out of the crowd. Maybe you hope that you’ll be back portraying the star-crossed lovers soon, even if you know the ballet ends in despair. At the very least you can hope that someone else made the coffee today, and that there’s still half and half in the fridge.