I remember when I was a kid, really young, growing up in Baltimore, my brothers and I would spend the day with my grandmother, while my parents worked. On this one particular day, during the summer, my grandmother took us to the downtown area of Baltimore. I recall going to Lexington Market to get a chicken box and twisty glazed donuts (my favorites, growing up). On the bus ride back to the house, there was a disagreement between this young man and woman, that turned into an argument. It was one of those situations where is was more annoying than threatening, but I was that nosey kid trying to see what they were arguing about. Eventually they got into a physical fight - I can't quite recall who started it. The woman ended up pepper spraying the man's face, which incidentally caused it to cloud an spread. Chaos broke out. Folks were coughing and shouting, scrambling to get out of the way of the fight and the mist of the pepper spray. The bus driver slammed on the brakes and pulled the bus over, opened the doors, yelling for everyone to evacuate the bus.
Getting off the bus, I remember being pushed and then pulled, the atmosphere vacillating between hectic and orderly, in rapid shifts. My brothers and I made it off the bus, but there was still a great number of people needing to come off. I remember crying, wondering where my grandmother was and if she was okay. Finally, I saw her appear in the threshold of the back door, crying, nose running, holding on to both sides of the frame, trying to step off the bus. A middle-aged man, came to her rescue, helping her off. Once were reunited, it was a matter of waiting for the police to arrive and the okay to get back on the bus - or on a new bus. I know it had to have been at least 45 minutes that passed before we were back on the bus. I cannot recall if one or both agitators were detained, but I do remember the man apologizing to my grandmother; being both ashamed to look her in the eyes, yet looking for some sense of forgiveness or acknowledgement. It was like he was a child again, apologizing to his own grandmother. I'll never forget that.
This memory struck my mind, out of thin ether, last weekend. At first, upon memory, I was like "where did that come from?," and brushed it off. Now, reflecting on the first full week of rehearsal of having been completed today, I can see how the memory might have been triggered from reading and re-reading the script. Ironically, during one of the rehearsals, we got into an in-depth conversation about trauma and PTSD: from the basic definition of both, to how each is diagnosed, treated and coped with. I brought up that story about the fight on the bus, to my peers. During that recanting of the story, I got teary-eyed and started reliving some of the fear I felt that day - mind you, it was over 20 years ago. This wasn't the only memory that has re-emerged in my psyche, but possibly one of the strongest since the start of rehearsals. I have no idea what other memories may be triggered in the process, between now and the run of the show, but I certainly hope that it will only serve as a platform for inner healing and a reclaiming of my peace with the past. I, too, hope that anyone who comes to see this show, who might experience a similar trigger of a past memory, will able to do the same. Until soon...
Season's Greetings of the Summer Persuasion!
I took some time to myself, to be with myself, given the fact that Sprout House went on hiatus as of June 29th. There was this idea in my mind that I'd flee to some vacation location for the month of July, where I'd reflect and regroup my Being, in preparation for a luminous return to the hustle and bustle of NYC; just in time for the next creative pow-wow. Then I was reminded that Life doesn't always go according to my plans.
To be clear, I wasn't necessarily disappointed with the absence of a vacation from the city. In retrospect, the diversion was exactly what I needed in order to check myself, in a new way. My impetus to leave the City for July was based on the recall of events from that time last year - those who know me, or have been paying attention to my entries, know what I am referring to. This was my turn to be very intentional about how I was to spend my time here, since I was going to be here. I had to be honest with myself about what I needed, and what I needed what to not be left solely to my thoughts and memories, for acknowledgment of my bouts of depression. True, it was a fear I had, that if I stayed in New York, I might isolate myself and go dark. I had to preserve and protect my energy.
I always speak on how important it is to flip one's perceptions, in dire situations; to transform the abyss of fear into the well of infinite possibilities. So, that's what I needed to do. My remaining in NY meant that I was to live in intentional joy, not allowing myself to fall idle, unless in a state of meditation, silent gratitude or prayer. That if anytime I felt myself drifting, I knew I could call on someone in my support system to lean on, laugh with and be reminded that Life is not meant for sorrow. This was where I discovered my Power, my Yes - I know this sounds all types of corny, like an infomercial, but I'm a certified cornball, so bear with me. I also opened myself up to getting a part-time job doing something that I enjoyed, because why not keep an income flowing, in the meanwhile, right? My goal became all about stitching new patterns into this quilt of memory.
Here I am, six weeks later, feeling like I've maneuvered triumphantly through the trenches of my mind, proudly emerging from the illusions of fear, with new Light. I've made some profound connections, rediscovered what this heart of mine is capable of giving & receiving, and have laughed more than I have in the whole year combined. My smile is earnest, not a product of expectation. Truly, I feel like a whole human being, able to embrace my every emotion and still carry the purest of Joy, without strain. I did finally get to leave the city and go home, on the weekend of King's birthday, to parallel the number one priority we always talked about: spending quality time with family. It was worth every waking second, too, much more than I would've sought to find in a month-long escape.
The lesson? Just Be. Those two words have taught me so much in this last year, and every day, I feel like I get to learn a little more of what that really means. It serves me little-to-nothing to try too hard, to force, to resist, stress, worry or fear. Many times over, it has been revealed to me that the best in Life occurs when I am just open to receiving it. After I've said "Yes" to Life and committed to Just Be. So, here I continue: until soon...
Donnell E. Smith