A Mother Enters the Scene, Stage Right

Photo by Flickr user thegirlsmomaAlison, what will happen when you catch me looking in on you while you sleep? 

Will you cry? Or will you say to me, “Hello, mommy, let’s go look at the stars”?

Will you crawl into my lap and ask me to read you a story? Or will you push me away?

If I give up nursing — and it’s about that time, when I need to think about when I want to give up nursing — will I ever get to hold you in my arms? Of course I will — I know that — but you are on the move, you are a free creature, and I have a deep primal fear that maybe we’ll never be that close, that intimate, again. First, you leave the womb; then, you leave the breast.

I just want to hold you, and yet, I am so afraid of you. Yes, the power you have over my emotions terrifies me, still. The week of my birthday, I was despondant because you were fussy. You were not like yourself. That invisible umbilical cord continues to run between us, just like it runs between me and my mother. 

In improv class tonight, my teacher coached us to connect the core of our character to the core of our scene partner’s character. She was telling us to follow our intuition, to respond from the gut, rather than thinking or trying to make things happen. We counted — “one, two, three” — but expressed emotion with our numbers, as though they were profoundly expressive dialogue. Connecting, building — expressing. This is how it is with you sometimes, Ali. I say words, but they don’t matter. All that matters is feeling.

This is a powerful place to be, as an actress, and as a mother. My teacher coached me, “Go towards the feeling of power in a scene.” Notice when you make a choice that deflates things, instead of revving them up.

I am revved up. I am terrified. “What if I lose my baby girl?” flits through me, makes my heart clench, and clutch. Lose her where? Lose her to whom? These thoughts don’t make sense, and yet I sense that many mothers have them. You cannot hold onto things in this world, and so much of me knows that, but so much of me just wants to hold her to my chest. To plug her in, like a plug in a socket, her body pressed into my heart.

I lost my words tonight, in a scene. I was listening to my scene partner, feeling him, responding from the gut with very few words, and my teacher kept coaching me, “Why? Tell us how that makes you feel.” In the past, teachers have told me I rely too much on words. I get hyper-verbal. I’m a writer, after all. Let me use words to tell you a tale. But no, that is precisely why I am drawn to acting, why I’ve been drawn to acting ever since I was a little girl, because it lets me get out of my head, out of language, into being. It can be so hard, sometimes, as an improviser, to be in that true emotional place, while also allowing the words to come in — without letting language dominate the joint. To balance mind and heart, thinking and feeling. 

And so it goes in life. And so I came home from class and turned on my computer and here I sit, and here I write, and the words are pouring out of me, and the feelings, too. I can bridge words and feeling in my writing, and it’s so much harder for me as an actress, which is precisely what compels me to act more and more and more. Acting makes me vulnerable, but it is such a good vulnerability (when I can keep my ego in check). It is an important part of being human, for me, to open myself up in this way — to create human interactions in the context of art, as a way of better understanding human interactions, period…and of better understanding myself. 

I can feel Alison sleeping in the next room. I opened the door a few minutes ago to peek in on her, and she stirred, and I pulled the door closed, terrified. Next time, I might just relax. What’s the worst thing that can happen?

2 thoughts on “A Mother Enters the Scene, Stage Right

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