In the UK, we are in our third Lockdown and I think we can safely say that for most of us, this has been the hardest one yet. Sitting in our homes, staring at the same four walls, going out only if work allows or to have a jog or to watch the kids look wilfully at the playground as you cover them in hand sanitiser; it takes a toll.
During January, I noticed my improv classes were very, well, heavy. People were arriving in the Zoom room with a weight on their shoulders which couldn’t be articulated. Most of the students were having a more comfortable lockdown – their own bedroom, a loving family, job security – and yet, the struggle was real. The simple idea of getting out of bed in the morning was too much for us, for I felt it too. Dragging our heels and dreaming of a day we didn’t have to spend all day looking at a screen.
I was worried. How can I make this a fun experience when we are all in the depths of despair? I wanted my students to get their money’s worth, not be sad playing Word Ball in a breakout room. I called my supervisor and she laughed. ‘Isn’t improv all about being in the moment?’ PING.
We talked about having to accept that this is where we are at. Sometimes we are broken and need to be allowed to be broken. In my book, Improv Your Life, I talk about empathy and the art of not fixing things. This was that in action. Rather than force jollity, let’s face the reality. We were sad. We were tired. We were frustrated.
And of course, once we had faced the truth of the moment, we were able to move forward. Tiny steps, but we felt a bit better. We felt OK that we weren’t OK. That we just needed to be not OK for a while and be kind to ourselves.
And so, heading into February, as the sun rises earlier and the daffodils start to pop out in our parks, I offer you these three improv principles:
Hold Plans Lightly. We are still in the unknown, which means there is likely to be more shape shifting to come. Make plans, have ideas but be sure not to cling to them for hope. Otherwise, when they have to be dropped, it breaks out hearts.
Be With What IS Happening. This accompanies no.1, hand in hand. Sometimes, we are so busy planning, we forget to be with what is happening right there in front of us. We so want to get out of the situation we are in, we forget to check in with the actual moment and can even start to fabricate what is happening. So whenever you find yourself spiralling into a ‘I should be doing…’ or ‘If the pandemic hadn’t happened I would be…’ bring your attention back to now. You’ll find there is more peace there than you originally thought.
Follow Your Obvious. If you are holding plans lightly and being with what is happening, following your obvious is the greatest gift. What do you need right now, in this moment? Do you need to rest? Do you need to get on with work? Do you need to dance to Dolly Parton in the kitchen whilst singing into a spoon? Take a moment and ask yourself ‘what is the most obvious thing I need to do right now?’ And you will know.Happy February to you.
Publishing in Paperback, Ebook and Audiobook on February 18th 2021