Hope Through Grief

Sitting in the audience early last November as the first play came to an end, my heart was racing. My friend Becka, who was with me in the beginning of my journey in St. Louis, who had seen me in crushing despair, who also had struggled intensely, was now standing on that stage hand in hand gleaning a standing ovation from the audience. And it filled me with pride and hope. I didn’t want it to be over. The buzz of the crowd and the energy in the room was intoxicating. A sea of people, people I knew and loved, of strangers, of people that had seen me in my worst and watched me grow. All these people on my journey. The aura in the room was overwhelming hope, encouragement and perseverance, excitement and joy. I cried because it was so overwhelming and also because I had this still knowing that the next time it would be my turn. I didn’t know how or when, but there it was in my gut heavy like a stone grounding me to the earth.
HOPE-street-sign18 months later I walked into our first rehearsal.  I had heard stories of the first plays rehearsals, of how hard they were. Really I had no idea what was to come. Painful and empowering are the two words that come to mind. I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of this cast and have this gift of opportunity to see each one of them grow in ways I didn’t expect, not because I didn’t think they were capable, but because this process is geared to surprise you. I’ve done a lot of theatre and I’ve never experienced anything remotely close to this. It’s inspiring.
The significance of this play holds double meaning for me. The first being, my character and her journey parallel my life outside the play. I’m learning how to stand on my own two feet and trust myself. For the first time I’m being in the world in true adult form, going to school for psychology and theatre and building relationships in ways I never have before. It’s both terrifying and exciting.
When we first we’re given the scripts a couple weeks ago I looked over the cast/character list.
Who was I going to be? What story was written for me? Part of the really neat thing about this project is that each character in the play embodies something or works through something we are personally struggling with.
After the first cold read through I had no idea what had happened. I was so caught up in trying to decipher my character while simultaneously trying to read my lines and not my casted twin sister’s who’s name, in classic twin form, is very similar.
After a few days it finally sunk in. I have a lead roll in this play. I struggled to accept that because I felt like more of a sidekick to my bossy twin but as my character grew and gained depth over the intensive weekend I began to understand her. And better understand myself. And now towards the end of this process, with the performance fast coming up, I’m feeling ready to embody her, not only on stage but in my life.
But like I said before this play holds a second meaning, it marks a significant loss of sorts. At the end, when the curtain closes and we have one last cast party, Laura Wood is leaving for her next big adventure in New York. And as much as I’d like to deny that that has been a huge struggle through out this play, during our intensivb3094da7ab37e0ae428cc9d862800a03e weekend I couldn’t deny it anymore.
After meeting Dave Mowers, an incredibly gifted, warm and inspiring theatre director, working so intensely with him over the weekend and then on Sunday evening turning around and saying goodbye, it was a mini high speed version of what was yet to come. And I cried the whole way home. Funny because my tears felt like a surprise to me. But it was just grief slowly widdleing it’s way out of me.
You see what I’m learning as I trudge through recovery is that it’s not pretty. I can’t pick and choose what I want to feel. There is an adage that we hear a lot, “it’s not all or nothing”. However I think in some ways recovery is…. It’s all the feelings. All of them. Happy, sad, angry, joy, fear.. Bored… Lonely… Grief.
The harder I tried to push the grief away the more it interfered with my ability to be present and creative.
In a lot of ways I am Stevia, my character. I’m learning what it means to he human.  Even though of course I was born a human and have been one for 31 years, it’s just as new to me as it is for her. Living without my eating disorder, with all my feelings and trying to find connection in the world is really scary.
But just 4863342645_62a5013cf0like that still knowing I had in my gut at the end of last play I have another growing within me, that just like my character, I embody empathy, compassion, strength and the courage to take risks. And I’m ready to stand on my own two feet and experience the world for myself and not through my eating disorder.

-River

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