Rehearsals for "The Jammer" have started, and in keeping with a show about roller derby, we are moving at a fast and furious pace. Just the words "roller derby" are enough to widen people's eyes and elicit a smile. So far, we're all laughing and bonding and having a chummy ol' time.
Underneath the brashness and the elbows, however, beats a steadfast theme. Vince, our director, remarked yesterday, "I read this play again and realized that it's about acceptance." Sure enough, the play is peppered with outcasts -- institutionalized outcasts, ethnic outcasts, masquerading outcasts, just to name a few -- which, although super fun to play, are people nonetheless. His next questions were mindful and grounded. "On the journey to acceptance, what mistakes did your character make? How far would you go to preserve this acceptance?"
Behind my closed eyelids, in the dim room, I couldn't help but think about all these actors scattered and lying quietly on the floor. This is the group my parents never told me about. These are the people who think for themselves. We are the ones who live in the margins and like it. It's a far cry from the steady life of an academic or a 9-to-5'er. It takes some gumption to get there and another dose to stay.
Our desire for acceptance sometimes mutes our free-thinking tendencies, but I dare say that's a universal journey. No one escapes the nagging feeling of rejection, I think. Even now, I occasionally feel the sting of being "left out of the club." We're all looking for a safe place to commune, to open up, to engage. But why? As Vince pointed out, we all make mistakes along the path to acceptance. Some of mine have been mundane, others catastrophic. All have been painful to varying degrees. So why bother?
I can only give my answer, and like it or not, there are aspects of myself that I'll never touch or discover on my own. I need other people to extract fresh attributes from my crusty ideas of who I am. Our best versions of ourselves only come courtesy of the company we keep. The corollary to that, however, is that our worst selves are also spawned by our interactions.
Therein lies the dance of Intimacy and Independence. When is it too close or too much? And when is it too thin, too little? When should we open ourselves up for exploration? And when should we distance ourselves to stave off disappointment? To boot, the buzz of vulnerability often makes us stumble like drunkards, thus adding humiliation to the mix. So, is this search for acceptance worth it?
I say yes. Yes, because a life devoid of intimate kindnesses could only be insipid and colorless. Life bereft of subtle acts of love would be the shadow of a life. Unfortunately, those qualities only blossom under the shelter of acceptance, the air thick with vulnerability. I contend that the vibrancy of risk sharpens our feelings and heightens our days.
That, dear Reader, is what has impelled me to perpetually search for my "tribe." We find our "tribe," I believe, one by one … often disguised to our eyes, though not to our souls. We recognize them with our hearts, beat by beat, one pulse matching another's. And once we settle in, we get a taste of heaven, a glimpse of the ultimate coming home.