Listening

The end of the winter semester of graduate school in a new country with a wicked winter (it’s not just me I swear) after going through the debaucle of moving is exhausting. And that’s not everything; that’s just what I’m willing to deal with right now. Mainly, things have gotten off track. Gotten away from the plan, the plans. The main work is still getting done and a routine is slowly beginning to re-emerge. I can begin to sit still and listen to myself again–or at least that’s the plan. Before the hectic portion of March truly began, I decided to add something to my life for Lent this year instead of taking away. It didn’t seem like sacrificing anything else would make me more open to God’s plans and voice in my life but would only make me feel more stranded, abandoned, burdened. So I decided to meditate everyday. It was actually going well while everything was up in the air, but since then it has been much harder to sit down and spend time with my eyes shut just listening.

But I think in other ways, I have been listening and meditating everyday. It just shows up in different ways. Three important ways revealed themselves to me yesterday.

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The first happened while I was transcribing a few interviews I conducted for my performance ethnography course. The first was a group interview where my two other group members and I discussed our interests and the theme of our performance ethnography project–Tumblr–for an hour and a half (and then continued chatting on and on for another hour and a half before calling it a night). There are so many wonderful comments we made and it reminds me of the ways my friends at York in the Masters program are truly becoming people who love, support, and “get” me. It was also an incredibly useful tool as a playwright to hear the speech patterns and force myself to record each and every one on the paper, even those that make me cringe. “Interesting.” But on an even more exciting note, I did not cringe when listening to my own voice on the recording. I usually hate the sound of my voice on recordings. I know it has a deep tone to it, but it always sounds way too deep when played back to me. Maybe now I have embraced the deep undertone to my voice, from performance or something. I used to think the only way I’d like listening to myself on tape would be if it was of my singing, but it’s nice to know that I can embrace and love the way I sound in my head but also the way it sounds to other people.

The second time I listened happened while walking around my new neighborhood. I’ve been exploring a little bit, but as the weather was finally warm enough for a longer, more leisurely and wandering walk I allowed myself to go down the path through the park after I finished writing at the local library. I found the beach, people walking their dogs and beginning to thaw out–even though I could still see patches of ice on the rocks that jutted out over the water–and the boardwalk. Following it, I was reminded of my first week in Toronto when my parents and I came down to the beach to look at Lake Ontario and just marvel at some of the city’s beauty. It was interesting to look out across the water to the place where I had stood in August and imagine what I would say to my self back then. She was anxious about the future months. She couldn’t see what was coming. I wanted to tell her that although the sun would set and the clouds would get even blacker than they looked now, it was going to be amazing to look back and see all that we have accomplished. And I wonder what she would say, hearing everything that has happened. It’s overwhelming, but in an exciting way. I walked back to the apartment, taking the long path through yet another park. While lost among the small hills and winding running paths, I couldn’t help thinking back to my solo trip to Blenheim Palace during study abroad and the first time I had felt such freedom in a moment of true aloneness in the world. These moments were unlocking the future. If I were to go back across Lake Ontario, to flip back to the end of last August, I would still tell her that we would have no regrets. Though exhaustion sets in and it feels as if support only exists back in Houston and Austin at times, something much bigger is pulling us forward. I learned to listen to my past self in order to remind my present self to continue stepping forward. It’s getting brighter, even if the path ahead isn’t getting any clearer.

And finally, I listened to my writing voice while riding the streetcar home. So I wasn’t quiet–I didn’t even turn off my favorite playlist and even skipped to the more upbeat, dance songs–but I did listen to the scene that fit my emotions and obviously wanted to be written. Even though it didn’t work the first time. Or the second time. And maybe only sort of worked the third time. Two of those three attempts occurred once I was already at home, supposed to be sleeping (as I should be now), but at this point, I knew I needed to stay awake and keep grappling while the emotional ammo was there, just seething underneath my skin. So often I’m busy with school and I know soon with a day job of some sort and I won’t always get those chances to let it channel through me. Those pages may come to nothing, but they were meant to be written. They will lead to something eventually–this whole thing is bigger than me. It’s my life.

I still feel like I’m trying to find my footing, trying to get back into the habits of writing regularly here, and going to more theatre shows again, and . . . well, I already said I wasn’t going to make lists; I’m just going to keep trying to embrace the changes that have happened and let them inspire more change, if that’s where this year and more are leading me. I wish sometimes it could be easier, to just return to where home used to be and see if the people there can rekindle something that feels disconnected and lost. But that’s growing up, moving on. It’s listening in different ways, sometimes even listening by belting out what’s on my heart and mind, to kindle that sort of strength and feel of home inside my own self.

One day soon I’ll have the strength to write more concrete posts about my progress in school, reviews, and new adventures. Until then . . . waiting patiently and impatiently for true spring and summer.

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About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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One Response to Listening

  1. Nancy says:

    Wow, that shows incredible growth and maturity! The best is…I think…oh, so close!! Keep writing!

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