Four days ago I was at the theatre, ensuring the music stand, the teddy bear, the scripts and the rack of shirts were where they are meant to be; carefully laying each of the ten color pictures, one of each writer, face down in their appointed location on the stage, ready to stand when their story arrived. Running over the pieces I had learned to perform without the script, checking through each story change, with the lights, the music, the right shirt.

Ending the pre-performance warm-up with each writer’s face on stage with me, I suddenly know that I can do this. I put everything back where it is meant to be, thank Mary who has patiently run the cues and reminded me of odds and ends from the booth, and then go backstage for the next step of my preparation.

This is the makeup, the black pants, elegant but practical black MaryJane high heels, and white shirt (although with my ability to immediately spill, rub, or conjure color onto white, it is the VERY last item donned.) I go the bathroom for the last time and for no real reason except that it makes sense as once I am out there, I am out there. I take a swig of water and then stand backstage in the dark, the light from the stage leaking through the gaps in the stage-door, the smell of the dusty, thick, black curtain behind me.

I desperately endeavor to calm my mind which is racing through the tricky lines, the story changes, correcting the bits that I messed up last week  – For God’s Sake! – STOP!! So I listen to the pre-show talk: Thank you for coming, off with the cell phones and beeper, if you like the show tell everyone, if you don’t keep it to yourself.

Seeking balance between focus and relaxation, the right amount of fear with a precise dollop of confidence, I breathe deeply, slowly into my diaphragm, narrow my focus to the light that I know surrounds me, emanates from me, is me. I see/feel/hear each of the writers in my heart, and smile. What I am about to do is easy compared to everything they went through, first in their lives and then to tell their story.

My ready-to-go music comes, Nanci Griffith singing Tom Paxton’s  I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound. I put my hand on the handle waiting for the chorus to begin, and then open it, close it carefully and step downstage into the pool of light that awaits me. Wordlessly, with eyes and smile, I greet the audience, let them know ‘Here we go!’, stand up the first photo, introduce the writer  – and the show begins.

An hour later, in the ninth different shirt/jacket, my hair loose and down again as it was in the opening two paragraphs of the first story, and not since, the show ends. The music, Le Desert Bleu by Xavier Descarpentries from the Windham Hill Path album which has played under the last glorious story that I share, takes me back into the dark. Then Van Morrison begins with Days Like This and the lights come back illuminating the pictures of the people on stage with me. The audience and I join together honoring the ten writers who gave this one woman the journey she has been on, carrying the audience with her, and thus with each writer, each time the lights came up.

(Little wonder that two days after that last rush of adrenalin and two weekends of shows in two different venues, I was so very tired!)

After each performance there is an opportunity to talk – the audience and I. Pulling up a chair (from the set), filling the coffee mug with more water (I drank what was in there in character during the performance) I am delighted to be this character – me, Kate. I fear I do most of the talking (as if I haven’t enough over the last hour.) But then I am less stunned by the stories, more quickly swept clean by the journey. They have a lot of processing to do. Then questions begin.  ‘How did the writing come to be?’ ‘Did you alter the writing?’ and someone always asks. ‘Are they all still alive?’

It doesn’t matter what one puts in the program about this, we need to hear the live human word, mouth to ear and back again, to answer the important questions; ‘Are these their words?’ ‘Are they alive?’ That is the stamp of the truth, not tiny writing on a paper program. This is why we tell stories, this is why we need to talk after we have heard such powerful, truthful from the heart and soul stories. Performing Wellness is just that. We put the stories out there, we share the journey and that opens the door to wellness.

Four days later I am beginning to feel that I almost have all my old energy back. Much has happened in my ‘real’ world, the day-to-day reality, and bills must be paid, horse yards cleaned, daughters and mothers and friends given love. And I do it all but having been fully dipped again in the pool of magic, of storytelling, lights and music and profound healing at so many levels, I am wondering what is the real world? I stay grounded and fly, I acknowledge the past and plan forward. My real world, perhaps, is that space between and of the two, and I can traverse one to the other with ease and in joy.

Is that what Personal Magic is then? Finding the key to traveling in our lives with Ease and in Joy? Of course by this I do not mean that it is ‘easy’ in the sense of without challenge. There are fears that are rooted in my sensibility of accomplishment and success, the responsibility of honoring others through their stories, the ego’s dance with acknowledgment. Each hour of performance brings with it the very real coming face to face with my own insecurities – the places where technical skills may fail, the brain may glitch, physical balance may falter. More than that, where my own personal vulnerability is suddenly spiked by the words and story in which I engaged.

The Ease of which I speak, is in sitting with the fears and overcoming them. Then it is like immersion in a pool of warm water. I stop spluttering and thrashing about. I choose when to take a breath and when to float.

It is like this, I think, for the audience who comes to be in the presence of these stories and other offerings like this. Having the courageous determination to sit with the fears and emotions that arise, brings with it an Ease. The Greeks called it ‘catharsis’. I call it the Shamanic Circle. Sit in the presence of the lives of others, whether it is these ‘real stories by real people’, or the powerful classics and great dramas of our time. When you share in the journey you will also be part of the great compassionate healing and love that arises simply by honoring humanity that belongs to and is within all of us.

The Joy comes when we embrace our personal story and all that it brings us. When our Spirit is engaged in its business, and when we take our part in that circle of life and death and life again. Right near the end of the last piece, with the drums beating under the words that I performed each night, the writer states, ‘If existence is a continuum, we are either at the end or at that very beginning.’

I feel as if I am both at the end and the beginning. I am at Ease with the shifts as I sit in the fears and self-criticism, I gulp in the love and excitement, I spread out my arms and heart to open and release any who can hear, and I rest in the Sun and the Moon. My Joy is in finding that balance again. It is an end of something, and the beginning of something else. Thank you writers, co-creators and producers, and audience for this journey.

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