Stage Fright

I am the head organizer and also a performer in a show happening tonight at our local Roxy Theater called Word of Mouth. This is our 2nd annual show and tickets sold out 2 days ago. WOM brings together spoken word, storytelling, and standup comedy into one show – and it’s freaking awesome!
Word of Mouth Mission:
WOM aims to both support and highlight local wordsmiths and nourish and inspire the audience by way of rediscovering the power of words through various creative forms of self-expression.

As a spoken word artist, to say that I get nervous before performances would be a fairly large understatement – it would be like saying that a bear is basically the same sort of animal in disposition and behavior as a large dog.

I put value in telling people that I get super nervous before performances, as people who see me do spoken word often tell me that they never would’ve guessed that I was nervous. I think it’s important to help dispel the common notion that just because I’m good at what I do and just because I’m up there on stage doing it, equates to me feeling super chill about it. I do not feel super chill about it. Every time I gear up for a spoken word performance I literally say to myself: Whose idea was this?!

Here’s something I penned this morning in my journal:

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Spoken Word

This morning, I finished a new spoken word piece called Turning 40. Spoken word is the performance art of poetry, so it translates better in person verses on the page, but here it is anyway :)

Also, it’s worth mentioning that in my spoken word repertoire, this piece is by far the shortest. But sometimes, short and sweet and to the point just makes good sense.

Turning 40

I’m not interested in towing the heavy, lead-laden line given to me by those who’ve come before. The one that says I shouldn’t be on good terms with aging – ya know, the one that says I should pretend to be some other age than I actually am and would do well to color up over all this grey hair coming in.

The one that says I should learn creative ways to outstretch my neck or gain an affinity for scarves to cover up the fact that I have folds and that I lose my sexual allure the further I drift from the shores of 18.

You’re welcome to keep towing that line but I’m not interested. I am setting it down, in favor of something…more.

I wanna tow the line that says aging is part of life and not separate; I wanna end the drama filled strife by pursuing a life based on responses and not reactions; I wanna water the seeds of mad love for the whole of things and not split it up into fractions; and I wanna swim naked in the waters of whatever age I’m kicking in and embrace my body, the whole damn thing.

cuz there ain’t no shame in not being a size 2, there’s shame in playing the beauty-looks-like-this game that no one wins. I’m fixin’ to tow a different line, saddle up if you’re in cuz I’m not sweatin’ turning 40, I’ve been enjoying the ride since 1979 and I love this mixed-bag world – and for what it’s worth, I’m interested in towing the line of being more than a pretty girl.

Sorrow

Last Saturday, as part of a show I helped to put together called Word of Mouth, I shared a newish spoken word piece I wrote this past spring, entitled: Sorrow. There’s a chance I’ve already posted it here on my blog somewhere – but I did a quick search and didn’t see it, so I’m a-thinking perhaps not.

This particular piece sums up rather well the past year for me, in terms of some deeper inner work I’ve been doing. It was only the second time I’d shared it publicly – the first time being out of town at a spoken word gig I had up north in Kalispell in June. It felt fitting to share it with my home crew last Saturday. I’d like to share it here with all of you, as well. Here goes.

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Words Matter

It’s been quite the week.

A week I could (and did) summarize by the title of this post: Words matter.

At the start of the week on Monday, we had an especially lovely evening at our local sangha, Be Here Now. It was one of those nights where the sharing was really genuine and heartfelt, we had a large group (over 30 people), and we had someone join us who’d just moved to town and was so grateful for having found our group and to feel so welcomed and right at home with us.

On Tuesday, I attended a forum on hate crimes on the UM campus (see previous post).

On Thursday, I attended a public talk on campus given by Christian Picciolini, founder of the Free Radicals Project and author of White American Youth: My Descent Into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement – and How I Got Out.

Unlike the Hate Crimes Forum I attended on Tuesday night, the seats were well-packed. While there were a mixture of ages in the audience, UM students occupied the largest demographic and I took great pleasure in being surrounded by 7 others in my close proximity who donned notebooks on their laps in lieu of cell phones.

And last night, I helped organize an event called Word of Mouth at our local Roxy theater here in Missoula. An evening which celebrated the art of creative self-expression through wordsmithing. We had 3 spoken word poets (myself included), 3 storytellers, and 3 standup comics take the stage, each with 10-minutes, for a 2-hour show that was simply fantastic. The show started at 7:00 and by 6:30 all 119 seats were sold out. Dozens of folks were turned away at the door – which speaks to me of the great need for continuing to offer these types of events.

Collage pic of all the WOM performers in the show last night

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On Being A Tourist, Comparing Ourselves to Others, and Some Other Stuff

On Thursday, I strolled about on a Main Street in a town I’d previously only visited by driving on through and was wonderfully reminded of how much I enjoy being a tourist, even if it’s in a place situated just 2 hours north of home, which it is – and I am.

It’s worth mentioning, as a point of clarity, that I most enjoy being a lone tourist. As in: not saddled by anyone else’s agenda or having to negotiate with another human’s dynamic experience. This also includes not being terribly interested in getting led around on a local’s points of interest tour. Though, sometimes I do prefer that. It depends on where I am, both physically and spiritually.

As I meandered through downtown Kalispell, I came across a plethora of posters with my name displayed as: Headlining Poet Nicole Dunn. It was a rather exhilarating/peculiar/other-worldly experience – especially given that I’ve had very little to do with putting this particular event together and not done all the organizing/advertising/designing/postering myself, as is customary. And, hence, this is the reason I’ve come here: to teach a poetry workshop and regale an audience who’ve never heard of me with a one-hour set of spoken word.

In my Main Street/downtown walkabout, I ducked into some local shops and took my time poking around. Upon exiting a particularly delightful store with an assortment of uncommon wares, I had a total of 3 new items in the bag I’d brought along to cart my zafu (meditation cushion) in, to a meditation group I would be attending a little while later, which was located in the downtown area, a 10-minute walk from where I was staying. The three items were as follows: a pair of colorful socks with narwhals and scuba diving rhinos, to give as a gift to a friend with an upcoming birthday; a pair of colorful socks with sloths hanging from palm trees with gold gangster medallions a dangle from their necks (for personal use); and a novelty note pad with post it’s stating NAILED IT, at the top, followed by a list of options you can choose between for how you deemed whoever you’re giving the note to “nailed it.” And at the bottom of every note, it says: GOOD FOR YOU, PAL. Once I got in the spirit of thinking about all the possibilities that existed for using the NAILED IT notes, I couldn’t not get it.

I arrived Thursday afternoon to the house of a friend of mine who is away on a trip, along with her husband. So not only do I have the house to myself, but I was left to feel a bit nervous when I rolled into town, having never been to their place before. What if I had jotted down her address wrong and wound up situating myself in someone else’s house who also happened to leave their door key under the mat, which is not an uncommon practice? Would there be other telltale signs (pictures on display with no one I recognized; decor and nick-knacks that told a very different story of the friend I thought I knew…) that I had made a ghastly mistake before the residents – who were assuredly not well-acquainted with me – made their way back home to find me there with my feet up, sipping tea? Thankfully, crises was immediately averted when, in looking for the best place to park, I drove around back through the alleyway and saw their last names scribed on a wooden plank atop the garage door. Found it for sure! Whew!

Switching…sort of.

We all have ways in which we compare ourselves to others and come up short. My ways take shape through people who are either artful/masterful at baking or cooking or at tending a garden. As in: so-and-so can bake amazing bread or craft complex meals with an arsenal of liquids in bottles that I would have no idea what to do with – like raspberry balsamic vinegar, avocado oil, and cooking sherry. Maybe I should be a better cook or learn how to bake bread from scratch. Or: so-and-so has a bustling garden filled with wonderfully greening leaves in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sigh. That’s what people do, isn’t it? Garden. I really should be more into gardening.

The wildly entertaining and hilarious part is that we took out our garden plot a year ago – allowing the backyard grass to reclaim its swath of ground – and it was the best decision ever! It’s soooo nice not to have the neglected garden plot we installed years ago sneering at me to become a gardener. The pressure is off and it’s glorious! I’m the sort who loves the idea of gardening more than the actual act of gardening. It’s rather like how you might be super into a romantic interest but then once you get to know them more you’re all like: I think I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’m the sort who would revel in watching a garden grow and equally delight in its bounty of edible content, as long as someone else tended to all of its needs along the way.

So, the thing is, I don’t want to be a gardener of things and I have no desire to be a masterful baker or chef, either. And yet, I STILL compare myself to people who are! How peculiar! We are a strange and complicated people folk.

I mean, there’s only so much time in the day, is what I’m saying. And I choose to fill my time with other things. Gardening and fashioning together gourmet meals and baking artisan bread simply aren’t high on my list of priorities. I think we have a very ingrained, very detrimental, collective mindset that we should be able to do, like, everything. We set the bar so incredibly high that we’d need superhero powers to even get close to reaching it.

It’s been extremely liberating for me to do the work of cultivating a deep and penetrating understanding of how everything I do with my time is a choice. And with this work, I’ve been able to accept and embrace my limitations of time and energy and interest in things. It’s allowed me to set realistic goals and drop the bar down to a level that doesn’t taunt me and hold me slave to ridiculous notions of how a life can NEVER by ANYONE under NO CIRCUMSTANCES be led.

So, I’m learning how to befriend the non-gardener in myself; the non-gourmet chef; the non-master-baker. To stop the powerfully common tendency to compare myself to others and come up short. It’s such an incredible drain and waste of my precious time.

 

 

Those Who Know Me Well

Those who know me well, know that I have a knack for naming inanimate objects and other things you don’t typically give names to. They know I’m an expert in collecting indoor bugs, which I then set free outside. They know I’m a sucker for babies and that no matter how pressed for time I might be, I will assuredly stop and crouch down to pet a dog. 

They know my rock star husband is Macklemore but not because he’s my type – which he’s not – but because of his lyrics, charisma, and smile. They know, too, that it would NEVER work out between us, which is totally true. They know that my vocal stylings are formed heavily by having listened to a lot of Tori Amos and Ani Difranco in my formative years, and that I have a secret calling to be a traveling musician in a band with a tour bus and a new stage to play on every night.

They know I have a special affection for crows and ravens and that my affinity for trees likely influenced my wearing of the same matching color scheme of clothes every day. They know I don’t wear underwear, except for those days when it’s impossible not to, and they know I don’t do anything with my hair other than wash it, brush it, and clip it back with something – no trimming, cutting, styling, primping, or dying.

They know I write a whole lot more than I talk and I don’t tend to give advice unless it’s asked for and they know that if I’m in town and not at meditation on a Monday night it means there’s something wrong.

They know that my high rate of organization and efficiency rubs a lot of people the wrong way and that it’s difficult for me to forge close friendships in part because of how often they’re intimidated by me – and they know that makes me sad.

They know I live with a lotta heart and joy to be alive and an uncommon fortitude of intention.

They know that I know that I’m a marvel; that I do my internal work; and practice to stay grounded, connected, and humble.

Upon Waking

A little something I wrote early this morning, upon waking:

Within five minutes of waking, I had come up with a handful of things to be grateful for.

Within fifteen minutes, I was reminded of how sometimes – lots of times – my husband does not smell good, even when he’s sound asleep.

Within twenty minutes, I had scooped a teaspoon of loose gunpowder green tea peals into my tea strainer and delighted in the noise it made whilst tumbling in, akin to graupel on a windowpane. And I’d been bowled over for a brief moment by the realization that having running water is a great luxury not everyone has (the sound of which reminded me that in my exuberance to put pen to paper, I’d forgotten to pee).

Within thirty minutes, I deflated a bit when remembering that today, my Saturday would include an unscheduled trip to Grimebusters Laundromat, due to the fact that one of our cats peed in our bed last night, all the way through the comforter and both sheets. And I invested brain power in once again trying to come up with a less churlish-sounding substitute word for ‘pee.’

Within an hour, I was surrounded by a collection of papered items, which would relay to someone who didn’t know me that I’m both a writer and a Buddhist.

Within an hour and five minutes, I’d been given goosebumps upon reading a new bit of writing that I myself had crafted – and I didn’t feel silly or shameful about it (which is a newer development).

And within one hour and 48 minutes, I had run the gamut of thought, vacillating from birth to old age to death; from ideas for spoken word pieces to all the people I love and adore (including a whopping 4 friends who all have their birthday today!); and from that which stirs me up to that which serves to knock me down.