Updated: May 4, 2022
A few years ago I saw the play "The River" staring Hugh Jackman, on Broadway. This play was about a man and a fishing cabin and his love for fly fishing.
Or I could say it was a play about a man and two women and his fight to connect and be vulnerable.
But really the play is about whatever you as an audience take from it.
The characters had no names...Man, Woman, Other Woman. There was no concrete timeline or defined relationships between them. In the end we were left wondering if this man was telling the truth or deeply deceptive. He talks of his desire to be fearless and truthful like a woman he sees jump from a high rock...naked...into a freezing river.
He sees it and desires to live that way. He speaks of the fire and joy and inexpressible life that he feels when he catches a fish. We see in him a great ability to love but a great fear of being truly seen. He is hiding something and that something may stand between himself and truly loving.
The reason I went to see this show was because Brene Brown was there and would be participating in a talkback. So naturally I was giddy at the chance to share the same air and Brene...and Hugh.
The talkback gave me a deeper appreciation for the art form of theatre. For the magic that happens between the script, actors, stage, and audience. The ions in the atmosphere of that theatre were changed tonight by the story that was told and the people who were in the seats to receive it.
A beautifully human experience.
Brene Brown speaks about many subjects but the main category that is associated with her work is vulnerability. She mentioned how hard it was to watch this character try so hard to own his vulnerability. There in lies the tension.
Brene defines vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure."
She said the largest group of people that have reached out to her after her TED talk were actors.
She also said it's the one profession she could never do. I can attest it is very challenging. Horrifyingly vulnerable. Deeply rewarding. It's showing up and being seen.
I find such similarities to life and the act of acting.
Hugh Jackman spoke about what a challenge it is to be present. On and off stage. To truly be in the moment without judgement or distraction. He admitted how he strives and fails but in the striving he succeeds.
He did succeed tonight. So honest and at ease on that stage. Raw. Presenting to us a broken man in his search for connection.
There was a scene in the play where Hugh cleans, filets, and dresses a trout to be put in the oven.
He cut onions, fennel, lemons. He poured wine. And we as an audience watched every move in silence. Riveted by the care he took with each slice. They spoke in the talkback about stillness. About how we are afraid of it. We try to stay so busy and distracted to keep from sitting with ourselves and our thoughts. Because the busy distracts from what's really going on.
Brene said... "To be here To be present What does it take? What does it cost?"
I want to learn stillness. To learn to put my phone away and be present. To face this moment.
To soak in these moments and not be consumed with worry or regret.
Back to uncertainty.... We as humans crave certainty. We like concrete ideas and we want to know the outcome of things before we step into them. I know this because I have been learning to step into uncertainty and it can be maddening. But it has also proven to be gratifying and life giving. They spoke about how we must not love because we have a guarantee of being loved in return.
We must love because it's what we are designed to do.
And sometimes it happens to you and there is no certainty. And you face a fork in the road. And you choose to walk down the road with a giant question mark. And you keep walking because it calls to you. It sings to you. There may be tears and rocks but you still choose it because it is the only honest choice because in your depths you truly love someone. And that may be all you know today.
But it's enough. And to really decide it's enough is faith. It is vulnerable faith.
I have realized how truly vulnerable it is to love someone. I have loved and lost many times in my life and each time it stings in a different way. At this point I am very tired of that love lost feeling.
But I will not loose my ability to risk uncertainty and emotional exposure in order to have love. I believe it is why we are here. TO LOVE. Even if it is a friend or a dog.
I can thank many people for teaching me to love... Jesus, mom, dad, so on and so forth but Brene also. She put into words how to allow vulnerability to ignite my ability to love. How to show up and be seen and press through the hard stuff to come to the joy on the other side. It's not been pretty at times and will continue to challenge me till forever...but I want to live and love this way.
That night at the Circle in the Square theatre was special for me. I felt it was a hug from the heavenly telling me I'm on the right track. Encouraging me in vulnerability and loving.
Pressing into uncertainty is brave. I know many people who do it every day and I am in awe of them. Let us be a people that support this type of bravery.
Let us open ourselves to hope and possibility. Easier said than done...but let's at least try.