As an actress, one of the things I most love about being in a play, is the way that with each stage of rehearsals and performance, there is always more to discover.
If I am paying attention, the way that you might say a line differently one night, will mean that the way I respond with mine will also be different. Subtly perhaps, but it will reveal something new to me about my character, and their inner life. This may change the way I play her, or shift the scene slightly, giving it a different edge.
If your character sounded angry on your line, mine might react with surprise, or pain, or meet your anger head on, causing you to respond differently and so on, and suddenly the dynamics have changed.
The scene is alive in another way, and the energy of the whole story is affected. Tonight’s audience will leave having had a different experience to the audience of yesterday, and tomorrow’s may also be different.
As with life, Theatre is alive and dynamic.
If done well, it never stands still, but is always growing, bringing deeper revelation, and greater clarity, thereby the story becomes more vital, connecting us more extraordinarily to our inner-selves and to each other.
The effect is profound.
If you come to the theatre on autopilot (especially as an actor), you can be sure that huge chunks of the performance will feel disconnected and disappointing.
Relationships work the same way.
This ‘wash of colour’ is cheap work – easy but empty.
It doesn’t honour the incredible privilege of standing in someone else’s shoes and giving voice to their story.
Nor does offer us the chance for empathy and understanding.
When we pay attention, we’re able to notice how the person opposite us is looking slightly more vulnerable or slightly closer to giggles – and if we will allow it to affect us, we will respond more appropriately.
If we remain on autopilot, then we will miss each other. Unless I quickly tune back in – the scene may continue, but it’s resonance will stop and everything will sound hollow.
If this is true… How much higher are the stakes, when I stop listening to what is actually going on in my personal relationships?
When I choose that path- the easy, careless way, where I decide I know what my child is going to say next, or what my husband is going to do (no matter how often I have been correct in the past) – and I do this far too often – I disrespect the infinite spirit within them, reducing them to that of a finite object, undermining both of our identities as valuable, children of God.
When I am afraid of being exposed and vulnerable, I will try to be in control of the moment. I choose to sleepwalk a familiar path, rather than be awake to what might take me somewhere uncomfortable.
But it is possible to redeem a sleepwalking life.
I just need to choose relationship over certainty.
Because relationships are messy, ever-changing, subtly nuanced and above all alive.
If we want to really enjoy our life, we need to allow it to be bigger than us.
We need to choose to surrender to the fact that we might get hurt, or misunderstand things and remain open to responding differently. Whether as a parent – navigating challenging behaviour, or with a spouse – refusing to retreat behind the old patterns, in difficult moments, we can choose to lean in, to pay attention, and allow our heart to really see and hear what is going on.
The reward is deeper unity and connection. The dynamic delight of knowing and being known, hearing and being heard, leads to deep comfort and greater freedom to adventure.