Sunday, June 17, 2012

Learning to Celebrate

I’ve begun to understand that the work I create for myself, either by myself or with others, always seems to have a ritual in it.
“God’s New Frock”, “Leave To remain”, “Jesus Queen of Heaven”, “Sex, Chips and the Holy Ghost”: it’s true of all of them.
This has happened without me thinking about it. 
But when I do think about it: in all the world’s cultures that allow the existence of ‘other gendered’ people like myself, we so often have a role as celebrants.
I wanted to investigate this inside myself: and so have just returned from an amazing course run by Sue Gill and Gilly Adams of
I’m only just back, and in that strange liminal state after an intense experience: looking around my life, once so familiar, and still the same, mostly. But also now so changed in ways I have hardly begun to understand.
I’ve done so many new things.
I’ve found myself singing happily and unselfconsciously in a group.
I’ve made potato prints.
I’ve played the beer bottle to accompany an accordion in a line dance on the beach.
I’ve been the celebrant at a ceremony in which a beautiful and gifted young man stood to affirm his sexuality.
I’ve made a public vow to be true to my calling as a theatre artist and performer. 
Life goes on, of course, in the same complicated and stressful and wonderful way: but I know all this has changed me.
Too early to say how.
Early on in the process we were all invited to write a letter to ourselves about what we wanted to take away from the process.
When I got back there it was, that letter. Waiting for me.
It felt like a message from another world. It read:
“Dear Jo,You have gifts within you that you do not understand or appreciate or even are aware of.

I hope when you read this you understand & are aware of & appreciate your dear self better.

You have suffered greatly in your life because of these gifts and so the temptation always is to renounce them or hide them away.

You cannot change the world, culture, society that has brought this about. 

But you can change yourself, and you can learn to celebrate yourself.”
It wasn’t just a letter. It was also a card, and I could have drawn something on it. But I kept writing.
On the next page I remembered what I had said in the opening ceremony, which invited us to say what we bring to the gathering. I said:
“I bring mystery.

I bring a life lived on the margins of things

A life somehow also at the centre.

A bridge between masculine & feminine.

A bridge between earth & heaven”.

And then on the very last page I quoted from “Jesus Queen of Heaven”:

We all have a light, & sometimes it is the very thing we have been taught to be most ashamed of.

&if you have a light, do you hide it in a closet?

No. You bring it out into the open, where everyone can see it.

And be glad it exists to lighten the world.”

I made my vow on the last morning.
There is so much to say about the ceremony and the process of creating it. 
But this is not the time to say more than this:
There were four of us involved, and we created it the day before with a lovely wild abandon out of whatever we had to hand: our dear selves, a judge’s wig, and four paper bags.
(There was also a dead fox, but he failed the audition)
My promise went:
“I vow to be true to my calling as a theatre maker and performer.

I promise to do my job the very best I can.

It is to hold the mirror up to nature and show the world in all its horror and beauty.

To do so with compassion and love”.

And there it is. That’s my promise.

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