Play What You Are Given

There is a quote I read once by Dame Judi Dench that resonated with me. Unfortunately, I can’t share it with you because search as I may, I can’t seem to find it. Maybe it was actually said by Helen Mirren, or Maggie Smith or some other super cool Brit actress. I’m going to paraphrase the hell out of it, but the gist of it was this:

I would never dream of giving another actor direction. You may be tempted to tell your scene partner, hey, could you say the line THIS way so that my joke will land? Or, if you don’t move when I’m saying this line, it will help the scene. No. You PLAY what you are given.

For those of us who have...um…control issues….this is hard. Sometimes we want to micromanage every aspect of our lives. We want everything to be perfect. We want everyone else to live on the same level of joy/despair/creativity that we do. We want to get exactly what we want in a scene so that we can play OUR character exactly the way we want.

Well, guess what. Life isn’t like this. And the magic doesn’t come from those perfectly delivered lines, from the perfectly controlled life. Magic comes in the chaos. In the creative way you find to respond to the line reading you weren’t expecting to get. The magic comes when you let your expectations go and PLAY WHAT IS GIVEN.

I think about this in terms of my self-image as well. None of us were given the “perfect” body…whatever your ideal of that is. We were born too short, too tall, too big boned, too curvy, too skinny. And we strive to "fix" what we can but we beat ourselves up about the things we CANNOT CONTROL.

I am curvy. I am always going to be curvy, even if I starve myself. I can and should certainly work toward my ultimate ideal, but I am never going to be 5’7 and willowy. It’s not what I was given. So the trick is to let go. Stop trying to change what is out of my hands and learn to appreciate the softness.

In the studio yesterday, I recorded a song that I wrote for a friend who died recently, and the first take was super charged with emotion, and consequently was filled with vocal “mistakes”. As we went back to do another more controlled take, we realized that what we captured the first time through, vocal wobbles and wrong breaths and all, told a story, a REAL story. It wasn’t the perfectly controlled, vocally flawless performance that I wanted, but it told the truth, and the truth is always far more compelling than the idealized, perfect version of events.

My challenge for you this week, is to learn to let go and PLAY WHAT YOU ARE GIVEN. Look at your perceived weaknesses and realize they may actually be your true strengths. Don’t strive for perfection, but for the perfection that comes with truth. Let it go…and watch the magic happen.