It Takes a Village

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RodO… photo courtesy of Jasmine Osiowy

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Brooks Adams

As originally published in e-Know:

Mount Baker Wild Theatre’s spring musical production of the Drowsy Chaperone played May 7th at the Keys City Theatre. For those who have enjoyed the amazing Baker productions for the past many years, they will know this play marked the close of an era. The youngest group of students who had the privilege of working with the late, great Rod Osiowy are getting ready to graduate.

Rod was a special teacher. He believed in expanding and opening the high school’s theatre productions to include the whole community. It was not uncommon to see the chorus or main characters being played by local business people, clergy, and other pillars of society. And Rod encouraged children from the local elementary and middle schools to join the casts. Rod called it stocking the farm team. He knew that the love of theatre, when instilled at a young age, would carry through into the teen years. By the time the children who began performing as young as 5 years old got to high school, they would be seasoned performers, ready for whatever challenge Rod might throw their way.

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RodO and Evan… Photo courtesy of Jasmine Osiowy

Grease, Beauty and the Beast, Jesus Christ Superstar, Anything Goes, Seussical and Les Miserables, just to name a few, Rod Osiowy along with his partner in crime, Musical Director Evan Bueckert managed to create theatrical experiences far exceeding the expectation for a high school production. But more than that, Rod taught each person who worked with him the importance of being a part of the team.

It was a grand tradition. Opening night of each show Rod gave the Village speech. It went something like this:

A high school production is like a village. All sorts of people are part of the village. You have the Mayor and Council members, who look after the townsfolk and make sure that things are fair for everyone. There are the law makers and the ones who enforce them. There are trades people and artisans, builders and business people. All of the townsfolk are vital, important and have their own unique purpose. And of course you have the lovable village idiot (and Rod would point to himself, causing great gales of laughter). The thing about a village is that every person is important and nobody matters more or less than anyone else. We work together for the success of the village and we remember that the energy we bring will affect everyone. Attitudes are contagious, so make sure yours is worth catching.

Important life lessons from Rod Osiowy.

Tessa Charlton who played Mrs. Tottendale in the Drowsy Chaperone recalls: “Rod had a way of making everyone feel special. I loved to be the center of attention but Rod helped facilitate that diva in me in a productive way. Towards the end of one of the rehearsals we had for Beauty and the Beast, Rod approached me and complimented my eye for the number we had just been working on and asked if I’d address the cast with my opinion on what we needed to work on. I felt like the most special kid in the world, even If I was just an 11 year old kid playing a dancing tea cup.”

And Eve Sperling remembers: “He always knew how to make us laugh and he was so easygoing but just strict enough to keep all us hooligan kids under control. He always had a smile on his face and a joke ready, and he remembered everyone’s names, even if they were a small chorus part that to anyone else would be ‘insignificant’.”

The Village metaphor is kept alive and well by the young people who worked with Rod, carrying on a legacy of inclusion and mentorship. Tyrel Hawke, who graduated several years ago, has returned to the area to work as an RN at the Cranbrook & District Hospital. Hawke volunteered as the vocal coach and pianist for the production.

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Tyrel Hawke… photo by Julian Bueckert

“Quite often I’m asked why I volunteer my time for this program, and my answer is pretty simple. During the awkward point of my life I call high school, Rod and Evan took hundreds of hours out of their lives to spend with kids like myself and help us create something amazing. This led to confidence and purpose for me during high school and careers and opportunities ever since. Rod had a way of making each one of us feel special and that we can always try harder to achieve something great. I am forever indebted to Rod, Evan, and the Baker arts program. I’m still stopped occasionally by people saying, ‘aren’t you that Jean Valjean boy?’ ten years after we did Les Mis. I do these shows for the spirit of Rod, my younger self, and these kids that have a lot more drive and dedication than many adults I know.”

Bethany Turcon is the new Drama Teacher at Mount Baker and was the Director of the Drowsy Chaperone. This was Turcon’s first experience as a director and she managed to create a production worthy of all that have come before. Along with Evan Bueckert and Stephanie Tichauer, and a host of other fine and dedicated designers, musicians, technicians and volunteers, Ms. Turcon created another Village, one that lived up to the legacy created by Rod Osiowy.

Everyone should have a teacher as great as Rod Osiowy. Thankfully his legacy lives on in the fine work and dedication of the students and colleagues who carry on in the village he created.

The Garden Gate

The Secret Garden by Emla, Deviant Art
The Secret Garden by Emla, Deviant Art

“The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.” Rumi

When it comes to motivation and following my purpose I have found that the biggest obstacle in my path had nearly always been Me.  Myself.  You’d think I’d be my best supporter, greatest cheerleader, biggest fan, but no.  I have been my loudest naysayer, setting up traps and making sure I trip, fall, or avoid the path completely.  What is up with Me?  Don’t I know that I will be the biggest benefactor if my dreams come true?  Sheesh, Self.  What is your problem?

Then, a few months back I saw Steven Pressfield on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah.  He was talking about his book The War Of Art and how resistance and self loathing are actually good things.

Wait… what?

“The dream arises in our psyche (even if we deny it, even if we fail to or refuse to recognize it) like a tree ascending into the sunshine. Simultaneously the dream’s shadow appears—i.e., Resistance—just as a physical tree casts a physical shadow.

That’s a law of nature.

Where there is a Dream, there is Resistance.

Thus: where we encounter Resistance, somewhere nearby is a Dream.” Steven Pressfield (very cool article.  You can read the rest of it here)

To consider that Resistance is actually a law of nature, like gravity, or attraction, was hugely liberating for me.  Suddenly I could see clearly all of the ways that Resistance insinuated itself into my life.  It was the same old song, ever time.

The Rise and Fall of the Beautiful Dream

Sudden inspiration leads to HUGE excitement, plan making, visions of euphoria.  That would typically last for a day, maybe two.  I would even get busy making lists and drawing up plans and telling my American Husband all about it.  “I have this amazing THING I am going to do!!” and he would get excited too.

But then.

This will never work.  How can I possibly find anyone to help with this?  And how can I afford it?  Besides, who would listen to me about anything?  I am a nobody.  What do I have to offer the world?  Who am I to set myself up as teacher/leader/guide in anything?

But hey, I’ve dealt with the nagging voice of my own self doubt for my whole incarnation, so I know how to muscle through.  So the next step is to soldier on despite the doubts.  Let’s say, for instance, the Dream is that I will write a book, perhaps about Past Lives for instance. Hypothetically speaking of course.

I decide I will sit down and write, despite the cacophony of self loathing that is singing in my head.  Here’s what happens next.

I sit down to write.  But wait, I have to pee.  So I get up to pee and on my way back I remember that I should take something out of the freezer for supper, so I grab a package of chicken and set it to thaw on the counter.  Hey, maybe I’ll make that yummy lemon chicken we had at Mom’s last month.  I better call her for the recipe.  Beep beep beep, dialing, “Hello Mom, how are you?…”  Twenty minutes later with recipe in hand I realize that we need a few ingredients, so I suit up and head over to the grocery store.  By the time I get back I see that it is lunchtime, so I make some soup, and while I am eating I figure I might as well catch up on my Downton Abbey viewing, so on goes the Netflix.  Part way through my 3rd episode I look down at the laptop, just sitting there on the table, mocking me.  I reach over and close it, trying to ignore the niggling guilt.  I can’t write now, I don’t have time, I justify to myself.  Finishing the episode I jump up and start prepping supper.  So I didn’t write today?  So what.  Nothing will ever come of it anyways.

Debbie Downer get out of my head.

When I watched Steven Pressfield talk about Resistance and describing it as a real, tangible thing, I had a great big Oprah A-HA moment.  If Resistance was a thing, then I could find away around it.  But how?

First I tried to identify how Resistance wages war on me.  I came up with the Big 3.  They are, in no particular order:

1.  Procrastination.  This weapon of mass destruction has lobbed it’s poison at me more than any other.  I will do it tomorrow, after this, once that happens, soon…. Putting my Beautiful Dream off forever into the unreachable future more times than I can count.

2.  Getting busy.  I am an expert at over-scheduling myself.  I fill my days and nights with so many tasks that I just never seem to have time to follow my Beautiful Dream. “Beware the barrenness of the busy life”, says Socrates.  I hear you, Bro.

3.  Self Loathing.  That inner bitch just keeps letting me know I am never going to be good enough, smart enough or gosh darn it, likeable enough. She has been trying to come between me and my Beautiful Dream my whole life.

To set up a viable defense against these three weapons of Resistance, I had to plan my counter-attack.  My line of defense is pretty simple, actually, and so far has worked miracles for me.

I began by making a concerted effort to recognize Resistance as it crept up in its many forms.  Once recognized I would say, “I see you, Resistance!” and then I would imagine that Resistance took the form of a giant bubble, blocking me from my Big Dream.  Huge and unwieldy I would see it there, as a tangible “thing”.  And then I would huff, and I would puff and I would blow it away.

Easy as pie.  Bubbles have no defense against a good gust of air.

This simple tool has not ended the war with Resistance.  With each new day comes new weapons and tools aimed at stopping me from moving toward my Beautiful Dream, and each day I must be aware, fortify myself and blow those bubbles away.  At times I forget and end up stalling.  Sometimes I stall for months at a time, but eventually I remember.

Resistance I am done.   It’s not me, it’s you.  The beauty of my Dream is calling and I intend to heed her siren song.

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“Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”   Steven Pressfield

Do That Thing

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Whatever makes your soul sing, inspires you, calls you…. do that thing.  Turn your eyes and thoughts to whatever brings you bliss for that is your calling and soul’s purpose.  Replace the “should’s” with “could” and “can” and “did” and finally begin to live the life you have dreamed for yourself.  This is your own unique journey.  Might as well be true to you.

Ecstatic Motion

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“Stop acting so small.  You are the Universe in ecstatic motion.”  Rumi

Confession of a Theatre Geek:

I listen to Broadway soundtracks while cleaning my house.  I blast them loud and proud, and Yep, I sing along, sometimes pausing in my scrubbing to act out certain parts.  It’s who I am.  It’s what I do.

My daughter, Em has known this about me her whole life, and for the most part is not too terribly embarrassed.  As a matter of fact, she quite often sings along.  The only difference is, she is actually good at it.

I have always believed that every person born into this world has a unique gift or talent, something they are the very best at, that they born to do.  Our purpose in life is to discover what that is and to share it with the world.  For some of us, myself included, it is a lifelong process.  We dabble, and explore, trying this and that until we find something that rings our bell.  For others, like my Em, they figure it out before they even know they have anything to figure out.

The year was 2000, a new century was upon us and without any of the Y2K drama we had been warned about.  Em was 3 years old, sitting in the living room playing with her pretty ponies.  I was in the kitchen, scrubbing something or other, belting along with the Phantom of the Opera, lost in the swells and passions of the music.  It was coming to the end of the song, and I stopped singing because even in my wildest dreams there is NO WAY IN GOD’S GREEN EARTH that I would attempt to hit that last high note that Christine hits.  You know the one I mean… where the Phantom is mesmerizing her to “sing my angel of music, SING FOR ME”.  And, man does she sing!

(I googled it.  The note is a high E natural.  For anyone out there with any singing experience, you know this is a super high nearly Minnie Riperton high note.)

So picture it.  I have stopped scrubbing and am standing listening.  The highest of the high note is about to be sung.  I wonder, fleetingly, if I should turn down the volume so that the wine glasses don’t shatter, when I hear this voice sing out, on perfect pitch just seconds before Sarah Brightman:  a perfect high E natural.

What the…?

I look around the corner, and there is Em, singing to her pretty ponies, effortlessly hitting that high frigging E.  3 years old and she nailed it.

So that is when I figured out that she has a Voice.  She is 17 now and singing is her passion, her purpose and her gift to the world.  She is still undecided about pursuing it as a career path, but there is no denying that her Voice is her Dharma.   What is it like, I wonder, to find your passion that early in life?  She seems pretty darn happy about it to me.  Lucky kid.

Here is a sample of her song stylings now, featuring mismatched socks and impromptu sing-a-long by our dog, Jojo.

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Em Sings

My own journey has not been as simple, or as clear cut.  I have tried my hand at many creative pursuits over the years, from painting, to quilting, costuming to acting, and with each new venture I find a different part of myself.  With each new discovery I am putting the pieces of me together.  And now, as I write everyday, I lose myself in the creative process.  This thing, this writing, is as close as I have come to my soul’s purpose here this time around.  I believe I will see where this road leads.  Isn’t it true that to become more like God, a person needs to create?  For what is God but The Creator.

I am the open vessel through which my Divine Creation flows.

Inhaling Spirit

 

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.  There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Rumi

The answers always come to me in the stillness when I sit and listen to God.  Not long ago these words, loudly, resoundingly, silently:

I am the open vessel through which my Divine creation flows

What’s that now?  The message came to me during meditation on the morning of January 15, 2014.  I know this for a fact because as soon as I came out of meditation I typed it into my iPhone “notes” so that I wouldn’t forget.  I needed to remember these words because I had to figure out what the heck they meant.

Being creative has always been a calling for me.  I have tried my hand at drawing, painting, quilting, costume designing, prop building, stain glass design, and of course, writing.  I adore getting lost in the process.  The inspiration comes, I gather my supplies, I download my lessons and tips, I carve out some time and then I find a patch of sunlight and CREATE something.  The results have ranged from the downright ridiculous to the surprisingly sublime.  But as with most journeys, the destination is not as important as the path itself, and as I grow wise (I’m over 50, so I get to call myself wise) I realize that the process of creating is what I have been seeking, and not necessarily the products of that process.

I am hooked on the creative process.  I feel so alive when I am inspired, flushed with excitement.  Some idea will occur to me, seemingly from nowhere and I become consumed with it.  Etymologically speaking, Inspiration literally means inhaling spirit, or to be under the immediate influence of God.  When I am first inspired, in those precious moments before my thinking, judging mind steps in and takes over, I feel such a wave of euphoria. It is as if I finally recognize that I’ve had wings all along and I suddenly remember I can fly.  I try to stay in that space of inspiration as long as possible, careful to quiet the nagging voices of my ego long enough to get the creation flowing.

While in that flow of inspiration I create the authentic expression of my most Divine self.  Once I get my ego out of the way and allow the flow of inspiration I am able to become that vessel for the creation itself.  The creation has a longing to come into existence and I am the instrument helping it to find form.  Seeing my role as being of service to the divine flow has helped me to remove any self doubt or judgment, and left me free to be completely authentic.

I create to tell, not to sell.  When I have set my mind to create for any personal gain (money, fame, etc.) I have tripped and fallen before taking a real step.  When I free myself to create for the sake of creating, I fly.  Creating for its own sake allows me to forget that others may see, read, judge what I am doing, and takes the self consciousness away.  I am then able to be authentic, brave and true to who I really am.  Oh what a feeling… what a rush!

Discovering our spiritual nature is the purpose of this human experience. The ultimate creator is God and by becoming creators we connect with that part of ourselves that is divine.   There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground, as Rumi says.  Each creation is a prayer of sorts, an answer to the silent voice of the divine that whispers to our hearts, inspiring us to fly.

Find a patch of sunshine.  Carve out the time.  Create.  And then you will remember you too can fly.