I like to think of myself as a creative person. My life is immersed in the arts: film, television, books, dance, painting, knitting, discussing, intertextualizing—these are the things that saturate my world. I love the arts; but most often, I find that I am enjoying the art of others instead of creating my own. I’ve never tried to sell a piece on etsy; I’ve never made a great work of art; I haven’t written my own Great American novel (yet). What I’ve come to find is that my creativity is currently spent facilitating the creativity of others. But that can also be a humbling place to be.
Little Man dances. He has taken tap and jazz since he was four years old and can’t wait to try hip hip and Broadway (musical theatre) when he is old enough. I love it. I even love the recital, a three-hour-plus test of parental endurance. Everyone complains about it, the way you would complain about a stretch of rainy weather— but it’s your parental duty. I don’t see it that way (well, okay, the dances with the two year olds are a bit of a test). When I see these students dance, my soul soars. Watching them use their bodies to express anger, longing, joy, and pain is simply magical. Perhaps it’s because I know that my own body cannot fly as theirs do; perhaps it’s because my heart leaps at the sight of beauty; perhaps it’s because I joy in my son’s participation in such a wonderful community of artists. He may not continue in dance, but I am so proud of him. He is the only boy in the studio of 300+ students. He struggles at times with ridicule, but I get to tell him that society shouldn’t dictate what he can and cannot enjoy. He does not need to be defined by his gender any more than I need to be defined by mine. He can forge a path of himself-ness that isn’t categorized by others, and I can teach him that while others see the outside of a broken body or a boy dancing and say, “You can’t do that”…well, that’s simply not true. You can dance and paint and play baseball and soccer and piano and love all things art. None of those things make you more or less of a man, and anyone who tells you differently might be less of a man himself. And so he dances. And I facilitated that.
My friends make movies. The team at Vinegar Hill is an amazing group of people who love to make art with a camera. And I get to help. I support them in any way I can. I currently work in locations management and the art department—that means I find the places to shoot and gather all of the props and set dressings needed to make the place look the way that they want it to look. It’s a wonderful job and it allows me to be really creative. But at the end of the day, it’s not my vision. It’s the director’s. I have found locations that I love and think will be perfect and the director wants me to keep looking. I have discovered the best prop EVER and it gets cut because it doesn’t fit the vision. Sure, there are times when I push back and share what I was thinking or what makes something special, but it’s not often (I hope) and I don’t often get my way. That’s not to say that David, the director, is some sort of autocrat. He isn’t. He trusts me…but he also trusts me to give him choices. He communicates a big picture to me, like “this character really likes coffee” and I give him a room filled with coffee accoutrements. In the actual filming, they struck about half of those things, and that’s okay. I’d rather have more for him to take away than be disappointed that there’s not enough. And sometimes, just sometimes, my work can influence the filming itself. After he asked for “a dessert,” I came up with this. And because of that, the opening line of the scene was changed to, “These strawberries are delicious. You have outdone yourself.” The scene turned out brilliantly. And I helped facilitate that.
My students write. They are incredible. At Write from the Heart, we teach writing and coach students on how to improve their writing. It becomes so much more than a class; it’s a community of writers. And I get to teach these students so much more than writing, including how to love literature and how to have compassion for a hurting world. I can’t wait to talk to them every day. It’s my own little Dead Poets Society (minus the suicide). And while some of them do well at writing but are destined to pursue other avenues of learning, a few come through with true gifts of brilliance. When I work with them, I know that someday, I will go into a bookstore and see their names on the front of a book. In fact, last year, I had a student complete an independent study with me so that she could write a manuscript, which she has since sold to a publisher. It’s incredibly rewarding, and I feel so invested in their successes. I read their papers and stories and make suggestions, sometimes pushing them to places that they didn’t think to go. I tell them take the leap and kill the guy off, or go to scary places inside their own souls and write what they find. And I get to send works like this one and this one and this one to national contests and watch my lovelies accept silver and gold medals at Carnegie Hall in New York City. I facilitate that.
I love being a facilitator of other people’s visions. I enjoy it, and I’m good at it (I hope). But sometimes, in the dark of night, I think about how really, their visions are not my vision. At the end of the day, I can’t make David use a prop I picked, or a student write the ending I want, or even make Little Man keep dancing if he decides he’s finished. It’s not my choice; it’s theirs. And sometimes that makes me sad—I want to write my own story or dance my own dance. And life gets in the way of that; my dreams for myself often get put on hold or are torn asunder by the behavior of others or even the betrayal of my own body. In those moments, I wonder what all of this is for—what difference am I making, and why have I been made the way I am, and what control do I really have in any of these things that I love so much?
But then I realize that all of these positions, they point to my true mission: to facilitate the vision of One much greater than myself. I can work and plan and save and walk forward, but ultimately I want my life to facilitate something much more than my own petty desires. I want to be part of a global vision, a universal vision, a vision that began long before I came and will continue long after I’m gone. That matters. I matter. And if I can hand Him one prop to make the scene more complete? If I can write one line that makes someone else’s story in this universal play better? Well, I can facilitate that.