I’ve been watching a lot of RENT; Filmed Live on Broadway recently. The energy, the thrill, the stage it all reminds me of being part of that musical world. But it also is inspiring me, feeding my soul and speaking to me. If you haven’t seen it I strongly recommend it, it’s more of a rock opera than a musical and it’s raw, gritty and real. The basic plot is about a group of artists trying to survive in New York City with not much to live on except their passion and drive. It’s beautifully made and beautifully done. The writer of the show who crafted and agonised and put his heart and soul into the piece died the morning of the first showing. It makes me think maybe that was his life’s work, that he had done all he had came here to do, he was a young, fit man and there was nothing wrong with him. He never saw the impact of the show, how successful it became, how important it was to society. But he left a legacy, a legacy that still lives today even years after the show has finished on Broadway. That’s a pretty powerful thing to do, to touch people you’ve never met almost twenty years after you’ve died. He had the courage to go after a dream, courage to speak his truth, the courage to be vulnerable and be imperfect.
I’m doing the Brene Brown course ‘Gifts of Imperfection’ and am daily getting Aha moments! It’s helping me embrace my vulnerability, showing me that it is not weakness but true courage and also to celebrate my imperfection and own it! Something that is all over RENT, it’s not just the plot, it’s the manifesto and warms my soul.
‘Take me for who I am, for what I was meant to be and if you give a damn, take me baby or leave me‘
I wonder if the real disabilities are in the people fitting into the norm who are masters in rules and perfectionists. And the people with ‘disabilities’ are ahead of the game with already an insight into being imperfect, so in a way we’re the lucky ones. Our weakness makes us strong, it’s a war medal depicting our survival. You cannot win without being in the battle in the first place. Ugly may not be pretty but it can be beautiful.
‘The pain will ease if I can learn there is no future, there is so past; I live this moment as my last.’
Forgive me while I go all metaphorical for a moment!
I bought jeans last year that were too tight, too short, too small, too same as everyone else’s , the material too thin and I wore the heck out of them until I realized how bad it was making me feel. This year I’m making my own jeans that fit me, that suit my curves and flatter my size, Attaching lace and crystals and washing them in greens and purples and pinks. Now I’m not saying I wore the jeans every single day last year, somedays I wore a dress and it reminded me of my uniqueness and imperfect beauty and on those days I shone seeing what was possible but I chose to go back into the jeans until they were worn out.
‘We raise our glass you bet your ass to la vie boheme!..to days of inspiration making something out of nothing, the need to express to communicate, to going against the grain…no pension…to no absolutes..to choice…to Maya Angelou and anything taboo, la vie boheme’
The first time i ever heard about RENT was ten years ago, I was sixteen and in Illinois, having travelled from Dublin to stay with my pen friend. It’s funny how this musical comes when I’m practicing courage, at that tender age it wasn’t the travelling on my own across the earth for the first time that needed courage, it was the courage to be me, to ignore the shaming voices in my head that all teenagers have ‘I’m not ………. (good, cool, young, streetwise, knowledgable, pretty, worthy etc) enough’ and fit in with peers my own age, teenagers themselves with their own shaming voices. I struggled and it was a challenge but I learned a lot from it and returned home a stronger, more resilient me. And that song that anthem stayed with me
‘five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear, five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes how do you measure measure a year? ‘
It’s no surprise if I look back to see that a cast member from that very show is one of my soul guides that I’m lucky to have met. You know those people who know you without even knowing you? Who see you without even looking, who teach you without trying and who heal you just by being. I met Telly Leung last summer and knew his story would impact mine. And to my surprise I made a difference to him. By being myself and standing up in all my embraced imperfection and vulnerability I had the opportunity to touch someone who touched me.
‘Forget regret or life is yours to miss. There’s only this, there’s only us, no day but today….we must let go to know what’s right, give in to love or live in fear’
It’s scary to be vulnerable, it’s icky and messy and painful. For some reason my default is to be vulnerable, to wear my heart on my sleeve and share. For years I have tried to turn off that default button or break it, I think last year’s wrong jeans finally did it and now I’m fixing it and turning it on. Being vulnerable can hurt, it can leave you with your face in the mud crying and alone, it can get you dumped/bullied/betrayed/used/manipulated and all of the above but it can also shine a light into others, it can guide/heal/touch/embrace/inspire others more than any forced and robotic perfection. One must be willing to fall in order to fly
As part of the course I have to give myself permission to do the course, to do art journaling. Sounds simple huh? I give myself permission to be vulnerable and to be perfectly imperfect! Right simple two write them down and off I go. I came up with 27 permission slips in order for myself to do this work because I have a lot of self imposed ‘rules’. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist thank god, I’d be so screwed! But from years of trying to fit in when my whole purpose in life is to stand out I gathered a few blockages, a few shoulds that shame revels in. I’m not saying living a life courageously being vulnerable and imperfect is easy, I’m saying give yourself a break and give yourself permission, whatever that permission is in order to try. Show up and be counted.
A side note to vulnerability; last year during that disastrous fashion break down/through I was given a piece of advice ‘Don’t cast your pearls before swine’ easier said than done and I’ll own up and say it that I shared a lot of pearls with pigs that I thought were princesses and stood on precious royalty in doing so. And then after getting mud in return, cause swine can’t give you more than that and I’ve learned I can’t expect more from them than that and not hold it against them, they know no better, but any how I then totally upset by this exchange from my pigs in royal clothing put a moat around myself shooing out the real princesses and guarding my pearls keeping them from anyone. And since I put away my ill fitted jeans I’ve been holding onto my pearls slowly and hesitantly wearing them, bringing them out and sharing with those I’m hopeful are worthy enough to share. And also lifting the real royals from the floor where I scrambled over. As I said not easy and I’m not perfect but if I take out the ….. before enough I end up with I’m enough and that enough I am worthy and in that I am living wholeheartedly and that’s the goal.
Writing this I risk being vulnerable and getting hurt but I also risk being vulnerable and giving light. You may read this and not get it, you may not like it, you may think a lot of things and that’s okay and I may get hurt by criticism became I’m not perfect and I’m still growing my shame resilience. But I’m here showing up and practicing courage, telling and owning my story and it’s more than freeing. Especially when I find reminders of my learnings surrounding such as RENT, there’s a full circle Hero’s journey movie esque feel about it, as if the universe is telling me GO CIARA YOURE ON THE RIGHT PATH, YOURE IMPERFECT AND YOURE ENOUGH. Who knows one day my authenticity, embracing my imperfection and my being enough will leave a legacy too. So here goes nothing and everything.
(All quotes from RENT, yup I know; awesome!)