I am currently sitting in an airport less than 24 hours after our closing show and I am off to an environment that is less than ideal and with people that oppress my humanness, but even with that on the forefront of my mind, I am still sitting here on a complete high. But the high that I am feeling is very much a new and different kind of high, and truth be told, I think it is the best type of high I have ever felt. It’s the high from life. From getting to work and having something amazing come from that hard work. It is a high from the power of un-masquing night after night and a high from the vulnerability of my wolf pack and a high from this journey and process we have all been on together and a high from being so supported, loved and cared for by a crew of amazing support staff and a high from what this project of Recovery Through Performance has meant to me and a high from allowing every part of me, even the parts of me I want to hide— be seen and heard and validated through the eyes of the witness. And more than anything I am on a high because despite all the negativity that lives in my head on a daily basis— I am saying enough. I am saying this is my high and the negativity that tries to control me will not take this away from me. This is mine and I am working too hard to not let those negative destructive thoughts have as much power over me as they once did. So today I am letting myself bask in the glory that this high I have built and created is mine.
Tonight I will be celebrating the first night of Passover with my entire family. We will be sitting at a table for hours on hours drinking and eating and singing and speaking and processing and witnessing the story of how the Jewish people left slavery from Egypt many years ago. Every year during this time of year as we process the journey of our ancestors that have come before us, we also take a minute to process the journey we are on to our very own freedom and Exodus. Sometimes I stay up all night at the Passover Seder or I let all eight days of the holiday go by and I still don’t have a clear answer to what my freedom looks like to me. I usually sit at the Seder and I feel compelled to draw from everyone else’s experiences of freedom and redemption to create my own. I listen to my brothers describe their freedom and what they want to leave behind and somehow I mirror the concepts that they have brought forward to create my own freedom.
But this year is different and it is not just because they are different and will offer the group and myself a different perspective on freedom, but it is because I am different. Yes, me. I feel blessed beyond blessed to be entering into this less than ideal environment and to already know what my freedom is for me. This Passover and this trip is about a lot more than just the observance of a holiday. It is about taking all that I have built, all that I have gained, all that I have processed, and all that I have witnessed with me. And not just taking it all with me, but also keeping it safe inside of me.
My freedom is real and my freedom is big and my freedom is loud and my freedom will not stop here. The journey of UnMasqued and Recovery Through Performance has been my journey to freedom. I am excited to walk in to the Passover Seder tonight and to be a step ahead of everyone else because my freedom came early this year. But the best part of my freedom this year is a couple different things that have really come together. I think first and foremost I am so happy that the freedom I am sitting with came from me and not someone else telling me what to feel or do or say. I am happy that the freedom I have created is not fleeting because I have all the tools and transitional objects to hold onto this freedom over the next eight days. I know that I can and will hold onto this freedom for as long as it will let me, and the longer I hold to it the stronger I will get.
My freedom has evolved during this process and I also want to say that I don’t think I walked in feeling unfree— but to me I have seen that my freedom has evolved when I take off my masque that I hide behind. I had no idea how much power was in me and how much anger needed to be let out. But as I UnMasqued every rehearsal and every show since February I have come to understand that the need for my own personal freedom with my own permission and allowance is finally here.
The interesting thing to me is that I had no idea that what I was needing was freedom. But the cool thing is that every night of the show that freedom looked differently for me and my character Helen Baldwin. I very much found the medicine, as Laura Wood calls it, in therapeutic theater and took what I need to take out of it that night. Yes, the concepts and themes that were needed to help the plot and storyline continue were there, but every night I found room for freedom and redemption. Some nights it looked like standard in terms of what the script originally called for and sometimes it spoke to my own journey for what I needed to take from the play. I think finding this freedom was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Because through the freedom and this character I found a voice and permission to say and do the things that I have wanted to do for so long, but was never given a platform. UnMasqued gave me the platform to break all the rules and expectations and limitations that others as well as myself have been placing on me. UnMasqued taught me the strength and power that I have inside me.
But with freedom you must also recognize and validate that when you become free you also need to release and let go of the things in life that make you feel trapped. So for me as I enter into Passover tonight I want to enter with an open and free mind. So as I let more time pass since closing of the show there are a couple last things I want to let go of that continuously make me feel trapped. I want to release this idea that I need to purge to communicate. I want to release this idea that I can’t ask others to help me meet my needs. I want to release the shame and guilt I feel about needing to wear a masque or play a role to make me feel safe. I want to release the child in me that is scared to be in this new environment. And more than anything I want to release that part of me that says I can’t.
But as I hear all the things that keep me stuck, all I want to say is… this is my permission to release. This is my allowance to be me. This is my own voice to use. And this is my freedom to explore.
The way I look at all of this is kind of like a good cup of coffee or what my wolf pack would say- it is more like a good Gatorade. Once you have a fresh cup from the original Starbucks in Pike Place market in Seattle, WA, or you have a fresh cold light blue Gatorade from the Seven Eleven on the Lower East Side on a hot summer day— you simply realize that this is bliss. So I understand it as when you have these experiences and you taste how good something can be then how after you taste it I wonder how you could ever fully go back to what life was like before this bliss. That is how I feel about what I am sitting with right now. I, Lieba, have a taste of freedom and release. I have a taste of how incredibly beautiful it is to have self-discovery and how beautiful it is to have that be witnessed by others. Just because I know what freedom tastes like doesn’t mean that it will always be available to me. I can’t always get coffee in Seattle and I cant always get Gatorade from Seven Eleven, but what I can do is hold on to the memory, the taste, the smell and know that one day I will be back.
I am going to ride this wave of freedom and empowered voices and allowance of Lieba to be in self-discovery for as long as I possibly can, but when the freedom gets mixed up with the stresses of normal life, I will remember that I am in control and I capable and I can bring myself back to that freedom anytime I want. All I have to do is close my eyes, touch my boss human elbows, open my hands wide to witness and remember that I am in control of allowing and giving myself permission to be a free human being.