“Sorry, I can’t come over. I’m writing!”

“Sorry, I can’t come over.  I’m writing!” I said to my sister over the phone.

I hung up. Well, I WILL be writing very SOON. 

You can always tell when I have a deadline.

Potato chips!!!!

Mysterious bags of gluten free chips start to pop up in the strangest of places. Like that matters as I shovel an entire bag into my mouth in record time.  It ain’t a “gluten free diet” my friends it is a “glutton free diet”!!! 

The laundry is done, the house is organized and the floors have been vacuumed.  Yes, I said it.  The floors have been VACUUMED!  

Sit-ups! I have to do my sit-ups.

Floss my teeth.  I must!

Intermittent cloud cover hints at rain.

My garden! Who knows when I will get back to it? After all, I have a DEADLINE!  I prune, water, trim, mow, edge, replant, repot, replenish the compost and fret over prolific mites that are decimating my bedding out plants. The battery in the mower needs recharging.  I use the weed wacker to finish the job. I survey my sweet little “I should wash that filthy vinyl siding” house and force myself inside.  The mosquitos make it an easy transition.  Well the sun IS setting for crying out loud!  My kids have promised treats from Peter’s Drive In as they leave to buy more potting soil for me before the store closes.  I am doomed.

Netflix beckons as I snuggle under a comfy comforter in my bedroom.  I binge watch a series I don’t care about but feel I must finish.  I started it didn’t I?  Fast-forwarding helps.

I pull up an empty document on my computer screen while still watching Netflix. Sure, Lana, that will work.  Not.

The kids are back!  Hot fudge sundae, delicious!!!

Yum, yum, yum!!!

Now I am over heating under my comforter that WAS perfect BEFORE the sugar rush! I am sweating!  I head for the couch. Guilt rises with the setting sun.  It isn’t until the next day that I find something.  

Thanks, Maggie!

My dear friend Maggie Volke gave me a sticker that is on my filing cabinet where I see it every time I sit at my desk. It says,  “Stand your ground, it’s sacred.” A new mindset swept through. “Sacred” is one of my favourite words. “Stand your ground” didn’t always make me popular but it defined me.  I was “Ms.” when others told me it wasn’t necessary anymore.  I got a Bachelor of Fine Arts when people told me not to bother and I became a solo act when theatres were closing down due to cut backs. I made my own way as an independent artist travelling abroad and earning my keep when just about everyone told me it was impossible.  Children? You can’t be an artist and have children!  I dared to have two, one in my 30s and one when I was 42. I was perpetually going against the flow.

CLAIM your space and VALUE it, Lana.  When I reconsider the act of creating as “sacred”, writing is no longer a “have to”. The albatross vanishes and my spine straightens.

Last week I wrote reflections on “Standing tall” and I was asked to elaborate on what that meant to me as a performer.  

When I sing something happens to me physically.  My spine is redefined with strength and vitality.  Many years ago I sang with a rock band for the School’s Out Picnic at Prince’s Island in Calgary.  Thousands of kids showed up to hear local talent mixed with some headliner from elsewhere.  I honestly can’t remember who it was but I did know there were kids paid to scream for him.  Ah well…One of three singers, I had a small solo.  All of a sudden my arms were outstretched, my legs solid and my voice came straight from my core.  It was a far cry from my days singing at the United Church in Midale Saskatchewan! The confidence that had been born on the prairies became even more powerful as I accepted it. Music moves through me like an energy bolt.  It completes me and the results are sheer surrender to the notes. Truly sacred I believe.  It is like dancing with the Divine.

Acting was a different adventure.  Stage fright crept into my life.

I recall a time when I was presenting at an Alberta Culture event to prospective clients at an arts convention.  I was sitting backstage. How had I gone from that freedom before thousands to second guessing myself?  Self-doubt is an ugly demon.  I was so sick. I only had 12 minutes to perform part of a very complicated piece about a disabled girl in a wheelchair.  I sat trying to collect myself and then something came into my head. Find some repetitive gestures and count on those gestures to see you through.  Find a language and forget about who is watching.  The light shone on me sitting in the chair.  My spine lifted me up and my arms reached out. I could feel the audiences’ hearts opening.  Emotionally triggered and trembling with the adrenalin rush I took my exit.  “You’ve never done it that way before,” said my friend.  “You found something.” I did and I was grateful. From that day forward I valued my intuition, savoured my physicality and enjoyed pauses.  

There are moments where I am in the story.  It cradles me and the words come out effortlessly from that place of trust rather than training.  The gestures morph into my own physical repertoire that evolves with my curiosity. The training comes in when I have to memorize, maintain structure and keep focused.  Those skills are invaluable and keep the quality consistent. Now whether I am singing or telling or both…the sacred line of energy is impenetrable and the commitment to my life’s work has provided deep roots of understanding.

Themes in my work echo my ethics. I listen carefully to what pulls me and let it speak to me. Acceptance, renewal and resilience are important to me as well as healing, laughter, equality and democracy. I want everyone to be welcomed when I perform. When you acknowledge THAT voice, there is a tremendous responsibility to stay true to it.

Would I have come to these memories if I had not had a great laugh at myself yesterday?

Nope.

Amen.

Time to call my sister.  I just met my deadline!  hahahaha

My sis!

This Baby is Buzzin’!!!


Lana ready to travel!

Ever had a dream and dared to dream it out loud?  

Maria Kliavkoff (http://mkfacilitations.com) my soothsayer and one of my mentors, was right!  Oh those accountability Skype calls were worth it. Every week I had to tell her how much or how little I had accomplished in my writing. Maria reminded me to speak my dreams out loud and be aware of vibrations. She told me that the story would lead me.  It did and guess what? Bam!  Thanks to the amazing Karen Jeffery, Artistic Director at Sunset Theatre (https://sunset-theatre.com) and grant miracle worker, my exploration project has been approved AND I have been recently connected to Kathleen Flaherty, Dramaturge extraordinaire from Playwrights Theatre Centre in Vancouver (https://www.playwrightstheatre.com).  This was my dream of dreams!!!!  Kathleen Flaherty has dared to venture with me as my dramaturge for my “Queen Bee” play.  Lordy! I mean we are talking about a forty-year wish that I would one day create with this woman!  Now, I am working with TWO amazing women with a THIRD in the wings getting my flight pattern in order!  I mean WOW, people.  It is happening!

Maria Kliavkoff
Karen Jeffery
Kathleen Flaherty

Warning: Exclamation marks will continue!  I can’t help myself!

In the next few weeks I will be using my blog as a stepping-stone for the play. So get ready for bee metaphors and my meanderings that will go from pillar to post and back again all with great permission from the wise drama guru Kathleen Flaherty who is making me type, type, type!  Yeah right, “making me”! 

Since my story is based on my mother’s influence on how I survived a hornet’s nest as a kid, metaphorical of course, I was told to ponder some of the key phrases in my outline. My transition from small town Saskatchewan to Calgary as a child was one of the biggest life lessons I have ever experienced.  I decided it was time to share it.  

Mom standing up as straight as she could with two kinds of arthritis. She retaught herself to drive that year.

Mom was always telling me, “Stand up straight.  Look them in the eye and don’t let them see you cry.”

This week I am examining, “Stand up straight.”

What we don’t say in words, the body speaks for us.  The lightness of a step when we’re happy, the slow relaxed saunter on a day’s off or the heavier stomp that comes from the burdening slog of routine mirrors our emotional state.  So much is said just by watching how we walk.

“Lana, stand up straight!”

Did I listen to my mother?  Of course not!  There were times in Junior High when I was carrying so many textbooks that I looked more like a Sherpa than a student.  It didn’t make me any smarter or get the assignments done any faster but I needed them near me somehow.

When the backpack was no longer necessary and I graduated to a High School locker I maintained the gait.  The weight was emotional.  Nose out, shoulders hunched, I was driven to find something and my body manifested it.

“Stand up straight or you’ll grow that way!”

There was something rewarding about being hunched over.  It was protective in a way, my own personal cocoon.  I felt safer.

We all have a clown inside us.  Mine is self deprecating.  Most clowns are, don’t you think?  My clown state is butt to the sky as I bend over in curiosity losing my balance often as I fall through an unsuspecting rabbit hole. My impulsive nature leads me to some very funny situations.  Many times I can’t see the forest for the trees until I am slam dunk flat out on my back looking upward after wiping out! So many of my mistakes have been gifts in disguise.  

One day I tried it.  I stood up straight.  A strange self-assuredness came through.  It was uncomfortable.  My worldview lifted just by keeping my head up.  I was calm! What?

No, I did not run into things.

No, I didn’t even trip which I do constantly as I drag my feet through the day. 

I moved with ease.

Confidence.

Is that what my mother wanted for me?

I had to laugh.  That only took 60 years.

With my head held high the clown faded. It was very satisfying, powerful.  The clown still has her place but if I can have both states of being, even better.

Nonverbal communication is everything.  People make judgment on you before you open your mouth.  It’s all in the way you enter a room.  I wonder what I really presented when I entered the school in Calgary that day in 1968?  Pixie cut and reworked clothes handed down from my cousin.  I had bright eyes and was secretly desperate to be accepted.  I had no idea how to conform. 

When I look at an old class picture I see something so clearly now.  Who else would wear a polka dotted blouse with a striped jumper and just before the camera clicked face away from the class instead of toward them?  I remember my teacher saying gently, “Lana did someone tell you to do that?”  “No,” I replied proudly.  “I just heard a person looks better if they turn to the side.”  

My body was telling me from a very early age, “You’re on your own path.” 

What a buzz I caused.  Hahaha, my lame bee reference.  They will get better.

This kid was an original. 

“Stand up straight” sounded like a call to battle.

Maybe that’s how my mom saw life, one battle after another.  I wonder why I fought that for so long?  I wasn’t a fighter.  Conflict made me sick.  

The music started at church and I danced. My sister maintains I did the twist and then threw my dress over my head!  I was fearless, untamed.  I sang solos before I even went to grade school.  In those moments I was much more reverent. That’s when I really stood tall……hmmmmm….I stood tall when I was performing.

It was there all along but I couldn’t see it.