A few weeks ago, I received an intriguing email. It arrived out of the blue on a day that I shall refer to as the Tether End.
Now. You may or may not know about Tethers Ending.
Let’s just say, it had been casually creeping up on me for a while.
You know. Small signs that something was afoot. Waking me up at night to remind me it was coming. Gently prodding me, suggesting that I might need to get ready.
But, you see, the thing with me and my upcoming Tether End was, that no matter how much I thought that the day would pass without incident, nothing seemed to prepare me for that: “holy f***” I’m having a baby in a few weeks time, panic stations, how the hell am I going to cope with two – slap in the face – bawling my eyes out and then doing nothing about it, moment.
You look confused.
I’m not surprised.
I could elaborate further, but for fear of looking like a psychopath, Tether End is probably best glossed over as being the hormonal response to one suddenly realising they are now 32 weeks pregnant and that they have done precisely nothing to prepare, mentally nor in practical terms, for the upcoming armageddon event. *
* Except tweet, write copious unrelated blog posts, enter short story competitions and eat cake.
And so returning to the aforementioned email, this was why it was so timely.
“Yes, ya beauty!”
Was my first response.
But… (and there’s always a BUT moment with the best freebies going)
That I would agree to take part in a ninety minute comedy improvisation workshop as part of the experience.
Comedy. Improvisation. Workshop.
With the amazing Maydays troupe no less.
I deflated rapidly (well, as much as any heavily pregnant woman can).
This could mean many outcomes. And let’s face it, none of them positive.
I fired off a hurried email response to the organiser.
“Hi there, THANKS SO MUCH FOR THINKING OF ME, but I was wondering what exactly the workshop involves? I should warn you that I’m not funny. A wallflower actually. I can’t and don’t do public speaking/taking centre stage in any form. Do you think I am the right fit for this event?”
As I was waiting for a reply to arrive, which I hoped would just say something along the lines of: apologies, I sent this to you by mistake; my Tether End mentality started to see reason.
Agreeing to this comedy improv thingy might not be such a bad idea after all.
It could actually provide me with yet another distraction from impending motherhood.
Anyway, as it turned out, I got a very nice email back saying that it would be lots of fun and that if I decided that I hated it and everybody there, that there was really no reason preventing me from just getting up and walking out.
Very true, I mused.
So off I trotted to Edinburgh for a night in Premier Inn’s waterfront location. Overlooking the Firth of Forth with stunning views across to the Kingdom of Fife, the hotel provided some much, much needed serenity on all fronts.
And, as hoped, what with the prospect of a comedy workshop hanging over me, I had bigger short term anxieties to overcome than darning cotton socks.
Somewhat ironically, I slept like a baby in the hotel room’s plush purple surroundings, a sea breeze gently lo-ing outside, carrying the melodic tune of fishing boats bobbing in the harbour across the bay. Bliss.
It was morning. My blood ran cold. What the hell had I signed up to? I was going to have to try and make a group of strangers laugh. What if there were properly funny actor types on this workshop?
To calm myself down over breakfast, I decided to catch up on reading some of my favourite blogs. One of these blogs happened to resonate with me so much that I didn’t even notice that I was spooning copious amounts of purple ketchup (apparently, a Premier Inn trademark) all over my bacon and eggs. Quite tasty, as it goes.
Anyway, this blogger talked about the importance of overcoming ruts, comparing this in writing terms to operating within a bubble. The pretext was how easy it is for online writers to fall into this trap and then wonder why it is we feel stuck in the mud. There is a need to refresh, purge, to interact in different forums – on and offline – and most importantly put ourselves out there as part of the human race. As obvious as this advice seems, I felt a light bulb moment coming on. I was not seeing clearly. Not only have I been feeling in a rut for oh, about 7 months, but in actual fact, one of my big anxieties about upcoming motherhood is the black and white perception that my recreational writing will have to take a back seat for the short to medium term. I have been proactively turning things down left, right and centre because I simply think I won’t manage.
I realise now how terrified I am about losing grip on the blog and my other writing projects. Particularly since the very reason that got me out of a degree of SAHM lethargy last time was its creation as an alternative outlet to Tether End.
Feeling buoyed by the realisation that this workshop was to herald my now urgently required bubble popping ‘human’ experience (whether good or bad), I met up with the other participants at the allotted time for transit across Edinburgh to our fate. It was great to meet the dozen or so other bloggers, who had travelled from all around the country to take part.
The great news for me was that many of the participants were mums juggling at least two children with work, home life, BLOGGING and numerous other ventures. A great bunch, full of positivity and smiles. Hope springs.
And even better, they were all terrified about the prospect of the workshop too.
The Maydays started off with a genius way to break the ice and got us to know eachother without any excruciating “tell us your name, and something interesting about yourself” BS that you usually encounter at group events. It’s a bit complicated to explain here, but I’m totally stealing it as a concept. Let’s just say that within ten minutes, we knew all other 15 strangers in the room by their first names. No sweaty palms.
And we were all still smiling.
Next we moved on to some warm up brain exercises as a group. Improv acting requires an extremely agile mind and it was super cool to learn some professional tricks of the trade. One excercise involved walking around the room pointing at items but saying the previous item you pointed at rather than the present. This was surprisingly tricky, but it moved us away from our default regimented linear thinking towards a bigger picture of what we could draw on off the tops of our heads in an improv set up.
Once we had done a number of en masse group exercises we then split into pairs. An excercise that was of particular interest to me was about comedic party planning. The first time, one of the pair had to say, “let’s organise a party..” and the other had to respond “yes, and…” then reply with another line to be responded to by the partner again with “yes, and….” and so it went for a few minutes.
Lots of wacky party ideas later, the retort was then to be changed to “yes, but….” As you can imagine this lead to some very amusing faux fall outs amongst us bloggers over why this or that suggestion wasn’t right for the other persons idea of what a good party plan should be.
It was hilarious listening to where everyone went with their agreements and disagreements, but also a great lesson in how a simple change in word can make for a positive or negative communication experience, even out with the comedy forum.
One to remember.
We finished up with some quick fire performance pieces created on the hop with the Maydays shouting out keywords here and there. I cannot speak for myself, but I was so impressed with some of the other’s acting abilities. I struggled to keep a straight face. Which, in of itself was a great takeaway, even if I’m never going to win a comedy gong. And I didn’t feel stupid for one single moment in the assembled company. And walking out never crossed my mind.
Tether End has passed for now, thank god. I see now that my becoming overwhelmed had created a hugely restrictive bubble.
Not pretty when it pops, I tell you.
And so this was a little story of why never to choose the bubble over getting out there. To try things that scare me. And to not be afraid of experiencing life. The world will keep on turning even if the outcome is bad. Which, it definitely wasn’t in this case.
My, now not so, little one is napping as I type. A gentle breeze is lo-ing, cooling my neck. The washing machine has stopped.
Time to press publish then get those gorgeous wee newborn socks and hats out on the line whilst the sun is still shining.
Life feels good.
I can’t wait to meet you, little one x
For further details about improvisation workshops in the UK check out: http://www.thecrunchyfrogcollective.com