Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: May 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Match made in improv

I got the Save-the-date in my inbox a couple of days ago and when I looked at the gorgeous, silly, ridiculous pic that my friends had chosen it was obvious. These were the fun guys. These were the cool ous. These were the cheeky clever ones. And I was so happy again because they are getting married. I am talking about my lovely friend Candice D’Arcy, and her Oz beau Mark Gambino.

This is the story of how they met, according to me, and why I totally adore the fact that they found each other and are good together. I take full responsibility for embellishing the story to make my point. This is my version of their story. (I have asked permission to write about them, in case you got nervous.)

In 2012 Candice D’Arcy, Tandi Buchan and I decided to travel literally half way around the world to participate in an improvisation festival, Improvention, in Canberra, Australia. I had seen the festival on facebum and decided that I really wanted to go, and Tandi and Candice were also very keen. And so we went. It was our first real exposure to improv outside our own little company (aside from the few workshops we had had from people like Joe Bill) and our heads improded with it all. It was life changing for me, and more so for Candice, who had been spotted by Melbourne improviser (the guy who we all thought was beyond amazing in Jason Geary’s long form improv format Fat City).

Anyway, the details of how they hooked up, made it work, had a long distance relationship, are in a long distance engagement, and are soon to be married shall remain theirs.

What really excites me about their story is that they are both improvisers. Now I am projecting here, but I am convinced that the rules (if you can call them that), skills and habits of improvisers are the best ones to use in relationships. These habits and character traits are the exact opposite of those of actors (even though there are some in common, like showing off, loving an audience, enjoying success), and they are all relationship building habits. And they work.

Here are a few of them in no particular order.

1. Yes, let’s. This is a silly, lovely warm up game, and a philosophy. It is the response. Now, close your eyes and say this as the answer to every offer (no, not ever the disgusting ones). So often we write negative scripts in our lives because we default to the no. We are used to it. Improvisers are trained into the yes, let’s of games, and it spills over into live. It is the best default ever.

2. Listening. The most important thing to do in improv is to listen. You have no idea what’s going to happen next and you need to make sure you hear what your team mates are saying and doing. Really listen, without waiting to answer. Really hear. To do that you have to be present, open and available. Now take those three things and bring them to a relationship and suddenly beautiful things happen.

3. Make your partner look, feel and sound brilliant. In improv it’s no good if you are the hero and the rest of your team are in the shadow of your singular brilliance. You are brilliant when your whole team shines, and that is your intention; to make everyone in your team be the absolutely most brilliant they can be. That’s when the magic happens. In relationships if you are always wanting that for your partner, wanting them to be the best that they can be, you won’t (often) go to the place of jealousy, need and blame.

4. Be on the same team. Improv (unless it is one man improv) is teamwork. Bang goes for relationships.

5. Have fun. If you aren’t, you are doing it wrong. Both.

6. Roll with them punches. One of the best things about improv is that you have to expect the unexpected. When you are making things up the world is fun, exciting and unpredictable. You take what you get and make that lemonade. In relationships, I have heard the experts say that predictability is death. I wouldn’t know, since nothing about my life, work or world is. And this is great in relationships too. Be ready for anything, and you will always be amazed, surprised and delighted.

7. A sense of humus.

8. Feel the love. One of my favourite things about improv is when you are in the groove, and it’s easy and joyous and delicious. That usually happens when the audience, you, and your team mates come together in that magical place. On the one hand you make it, on the other, you receive it.

Waiting to become something

I am sad that I haven’t been more active here on my blog. I have had tons of stuff flying through my brain, and the desire to write is still strong, but I have had a lack of focus or intent ever since I stopped writing about the theatre I was watching. The really strange thing is that I have been less open to theatre since I have stopped writing about it. Maybe I am just looking at it a lot less analytically. I just haven’t been moved, elevated or inspired by anything theatrical lately. That is until this last Saturday night when I was arm-twisted into staying for the second half of a double bill at The Theatre Arts Admin Collective, a dance piece called UnMute.

Now, those who have read me or know me know that dance is my Greek. I don’t get it, read it or speak it. I am frustrated by it mostly, and generally find the art of modern dance painfully pretentious and self absorbed. So this is why I wasn’t in the mood at all.

Well, blow my brain open with a feather. From the very first moment of Laurie Anderson’s O Superman which began Andile Vellem’s piece I started weeping and that was it. Four dancers; Andile Vellem, Themba Mbuli, Nadine McKenzie and Zama Sonjica took me to a place I have seldom been before and transformed me emotionally and theatrically. I don’t know what else to say about the 30 minutes of moving magic. It was a piece that simultaneously took me out of myself and connected me to myself in the most special, organic way. I loved it. And I can’t help writing about it a little bit.

In the meantime I guess meganshead is in process. It is waiting to become something. It is waiting to become something else.

What is hard

So far I have written mainly about how easy it is to go on the Dukan diet, and reach your target weight. I am discovering that what isn’t as easy is staying there. I am currently in the third phase of the diet, the consolidation phase, which is about reintroducing foods slowly and in a controlled way, with one day a week of pure protein (a thing that will continue for the rest of my life), and it is a test. Partly because Big Friendly and I went away for the weekend, I ended up being a little slack. That was easy. But getting completely, strictly back on track has been hard, especially since I have to be fiercely committed to this phase for a very long time. How it works is, five days for every pound lost, so in my case I complete this phase in August!

I really, really didn’t understand this part before. I hadn’t felt it until this time. I really want this. Not in a whiny, helpless way, but in a true, sticking to my guns even though it is hard way. And writing about it helps too.

Just say Yes

A lot of people have messaged me with questions about the Dukan diet. Others have told me the reasons why it didn’t work for them; ranging from feelings of nausea and exhaustion, to vegetarians and vegans having serious issues with the animal protein needed. I understand all of the problems and challenges.

Luckily for me I was able to put a most commonly used improv skill into practice (I don’t know why I have never ever done it with my diet before), and that is, just say yes. I did everything to make the diet work. I stuck to my guns, I broke certain rules if it was going to make me stick to it, and I followed others to the letter. I just said yes, and committed and got on with it. Before I knew it I was two months in 8kgs down and happy and confident that what I was doing was working.

So, instead of feeling disappointed and sad and resigned I felt empowered and successful and energised. I have capitalised on those feelings. They totally motivate me. Everyone’s response to me has been inspiring and delicious too. This is a yes I can success story.

The Funny Side

I was Facebum chatting to a friend overseas about the Dukan diet (USA has its unique challenges when trying to go on a sugar free diet; even the plain yogurt and fat free cottage cheese has sugar in it) and the conversation reminded me of how many funny things happen when you are dieting. It really isn’t all hard work and gloom.

One of the funniest things I did, more than once, was to peel batter off fish. I was out, or away, and had to eat the lesser of all evils. Fried fish it was. And I peeled it. Was it the ideal thing to eat? No. Was it a whole lot better than eating the batter? Oh yes.

I picked fruit out of salad. Actually, in general I don’t love fruit in salad, but especially on the Dukan, where in the first two phases there is no fruit whatsoever (because of the sugar) I picked damn (fashionable) pomegranate pips, orange segments, raisins (sies), apple and even nuts (which are also a no-no on the diet) out of salads.

I hauled sugar free gum, sugar free, fat free yogurt and even oat bran out of my bag. I carried a teaspoon around so I could eat it on the go.

I wore pants that were totally huge for me with belts, before finally agreeing that they were miles too big. I bought new jeans too soon, and lost more weight. I got rid of the big belts before I got rid of the big pants.

I saw the local shops as the drug store. I cannot believe how much terrible stuff is on sale there, just in the aisle that we wait in, to pay. It really is evil. I was on guard.

I became a preacher. I could see people glaze over after paragraph 2 of what I had done, what I was doing, and how. Sometimes I preached to those in need. I have converted more than 3 friends and the results speak for themselves. This makes me, and them, very happy.

Best Snack ever

Gero vanilla flavoured fat free yogurt, 1 tsp cocoa powder, 2 tbs oat bran (daily allowance)

Thing that saved my life

Tuna biltong. Pure protein snack.

Worst snack ever (although I tried twice!)

Vegetarian, fat free, artificially sweetened jelly. Tastes like artificially sweetened nothing.

Important

Some of my friends have always had an excellent relationship with their bodies. They know when they are bloated, or one or two kilos over what is comfortable for them, and then they quietly sort it out by watching what they eat for a week or two. They are in balance. It is a good combination of pride in their bodies and how they look, health, and reality. I have never really been one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I like looking and feeling good, but I don’t like spending time or energy on it. I find it very boring.

Also, while I didn’t have the best advice about my body while I was growing up, with family members projecting their body weight issues onto me, I still managed to be very uncomplicated around my body and food. This meant that I was seldom overweight, until I gave up smoking 11 years ago.

What I remember feeling most often when I was 17kgs heavier was resignation. I was resigned to my middle life as a fat person. I got used to the pictures of a fat me on stage. I felt embarrassed, but resigned. I felt unhappy, but resigned. I felt not myself, but resigned. Until I decided that it was important to change and feel different. Important. I am so excited that I made that decision, and put it into practice. Because it is important. And I feel like I have made such an important decision.

The impact of that is huge. I am allowing myself to feel proud about my body. I am allowing myself to spend time on what I look like. Well, more time than I did before. I talk to everyone about it, honestly and with commitment. I want to have a sustained, healthy, committed relationship with my body. I want it to work for me, and when it does, I have a life that is so much better.

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