I was having a session with a very wise friend and mentor this morning and we were exploring my current sense of discombobulation. I’m only shortly back from a month in Australia, the e-mails are firing on all cylinders, I’m getting new project proposals underway and yet I have moments of feeling unseen. I was sharing with her that my Blog is one way in which I choose to make myself visible, whilst also remaining very private.
Last night I was with a wonderful StageOne grad theatre producer who is working with me on making Producers’ Pool and CGO’s work more visible, which is wonderful, and she seemed bemused that I felt the need to get more underway when so much is happening already.
Something’s going on inside me which I will take the challenge to share and explore through this blog. It clearly goes back a long way and I’ve always thought it was something to do with the need for money. I do so much on spec, so much where others tell me I must charge, so much where I invent something and then the next person gets a £big salary to run it. That’s my life. But maybe my discombobulation comes from something else. Maybe it is something to do with being “valued”. More about being “not seen” rather than “not paid”.
For 40 years I’ve driven myself to make stuff happen, usually stuff which didn’t exist before. Lost in the mists of time are my involvement in creating the environment/spark which enables stuff to move forward in new ways – whether a new building, a new way of working with audiences, a new festival or the validation of an artform. I’m at the time of my life where I am watching my old school-mates retire. Those who went into the city and hung up their ballet shoes or their hard-hats from the school theatre, are now banking their retirement as they sell their companies for, in some cases, millions. Now they can get back to doing a bit of theatre on the side. I didn’t take that path.
I went off and became a tea-boy, ran a theatre company, and took a crazy idea to the Arts Council who told me I was mad. [PS the idea is still valid and still in my head and still never been done, but it has shaped much of what I have done over my life]. Those who chose to join me on the theatre path have stayed on their upward trajectory rather than skipping around inventing new things. They now run the West End or are retiring from the very top jobs in theatre. I’ve chosen to stay in/on the fringes making small stuff happen which felt needed. Less pressure, more joy, but less recognition and money in the bank.
Now at 60 I’m a bit tired, moved to a new Country where I am not known, stopped teaching on a high visibility course, and spend a lot of time trying to get key gatekeepers to make decisions on ideas which I have bubbled and presented to them. One “yes” phone call will move me from tired to inspired, but all this solo pitching, waiting, and being unseen is hard.
My guide this morning asked me to explore back to when I first felt “not seen”. My immediate image was of two empty seats in a full house at the start of the 2nd half of Dr Faustus which I was company managing with a cast of 100+ at my school. I was 15. My mother and step-father had come to see the show, got bored, and left at the interval. I saw it in my mind this morning and got angry because I wanted them to be proud of me, to be seen, to be recognised for 8 weeks of work culminating in a stunning (in my eyes), dangerous (only ghost I’ve ever encountered) production of Marlowe’s amazing play.
Now I wasn’t playing Faustus or Mephistopheles or the wonderous Helen of Troy. I wasn’t seeking validation through applause from an audience. In fact that is always something I shy away from. I am not a performer or showman. I am a shy creator of ideas, projects, and opportunities. Yes I can stand up and teach. I can make curtain speeches to 900 people asking for money for a theatre. But I don’t attract applause. But when the right people notice that is very important to my wellbeing.
This is not a misery-blog, Far from it. It is a revelatory one to me. I know I have to balance the on-line presence which makes people say “wow you are so busy” with the reality that I have many irons in the fire, and at the moment it is mainly awaiting gatekeepers to turn it into paid employment. In moving to Edinburgh I knew it was going to take time to re-group as a freelancer. Yes I am very busy through to August with planning 3 chinese delegations, working for a few days for the International Festival, and completing a major project for Stagescripts. But my dance-card is ready for your approaches from September.
So I was asked to write about the “phases of being seen” and this slight splurge of thoughts seeks to touch on 2-3 areas. The need for face-to-face acknowledgement and validation to help me know that I am seen, by the right people. The need to find ways in my own control to be visible – such as my blogs and doing networking. The requirement to identify what I need – to be seen, not just paid. And then to find ways in networking events and social settings to be slightly more visible by my own actions – not least so that people know that I do need, as a freelancer, to work until…well until I get my state pension.
19 years ago I met an amazing woman on a blind-date. She reflected on that when we were in Australia and how she nearly left me very early on. She was horrified when I challenged whether anything that happened in my very happy childhood had any effect on my current life. She hung-on-in-there. My work as a coach and support for so many extraordinary explorers of personal growth have made me aware that, yes, young Master Grady needs attention/care from his older self. I am fascinated to be reading “Waking The Tiger” by Peter Levine…and to be blessed to be having deep emotional conversations with my own mentor by skype and in person, helping to check-in on my child within. He is hiding in plain sight…I’ve just not noticed him enough…until now.