Stillpoint Theatre

August2nd

loves hand

Two years ago the person belonging to these lovely hands, asked me out on a date. Tracking something new, I said yes. It felt good, we took our time and got to know each other gently. We were both mindful of doing it differently this time.

It seems to work: we’ve barely been out of each other’s company since. Next year, he’ll become my husband and I couldn’t be more delighted. I feel at once calm and deeply excited about it.

There is a lot about this love that has changed my life. Practically, it has bought in a whole new family. He comes with two brilliant kids. One 22, the other 9. Bam! Just like that. They are great. I am grateful. The love has softened me, I am less avoidant and fighty. Also, crucially, it has changed my idea of what private space means. Some deep place in me no longer needs to run away to find quietness. For the first time, the place of retreat and oasis is no longer elsewhere, it exists within and in the space between us.

I don’t really know how we’ve managed this. It is certainly something I have been trying to make happen and failing at. As a weirdly expressive introvert, it is something I used to frequently lie to achieve. Stealing solitude on the quiet. And it is tempting to flatter myself I’m managing it now because I’ve done so much self development and therapy, but quite frankly, I don’t buy it. It feels much more animal than that – like finally being in the right pen at the zoo. I suspect it is something that is impossible to make happen through will alone.
Something organismic and chemical.
Anyway, a blessed mystery.

kiss picture

And this quietness within is a fundamental shift in how I am in the world. Home becomes my base camp and it supports me in the things I want to make and do in the world.

How it should be, right?

Yet for some reason this dynamic and I have always avoided each other.

How life can turn on a dime…

But before we all get ill from the proliferation of schmaltz, it aint all sweet and easy

Being in an atmosphere of love brings up my shit. In ways I couldn’t have anticipated. No longer being in self defence on some sub-bass level, means I have space and support to look at my self and its not always pretty. In softening it is harder to live in the way I have been used living. The ways I have needed to be resilient to survive, now feel unnecessarily armoured and just, well, unnecessary. Old ways are falling away which at times has felt, naked and disorienting. Like it might be easier to just bail and revert to the factory settings. But I won’t bail. Life is too rich and rewarding.

Something else that has been challenging is how the relationship has changed my themes. This may not be a big deal to some. For an artist it is HUGE. My themes used to be my safe place. When all around me was madness, at least I had my themes. They helped me know who I was. They healed me. They were me. I lent on them heavily. But now some epic karmic knot is unwinding. It is like everything that has been my go-to resource for my whole life as an artist: mineral rich seams that felt like they would go on for ever, are no longer calling me. And my gaze is falling on unknown landscapes. Like a new born, the shapes are still soft and a little out of my range of vision. My brain can’t calibrate what it is seeing. I still have no names for anything. It is really like I am having to start from scratch.

So who am I in this new version of the world?

I am in free-fall and discovery.

Annette Habel - falling Bodies 83

Annette Habel Falling Bodies 83.

The other thing I am confronted by is that there might be a possibility, I could do things via EASE, instead of stress. Again – may sound like a no brainier. Who would choose stress?!! But I guess the point is, I only recently realised I was choosing it. When tension is how I’ve done things my whole life, the idea that I might follow ease is a total head fuck. My neural pathways don’t recognise the how. It requires the unlearning of very deep behavioural patterns.

The possibility that I might be able to choose to make work from following ease instead of stress, fluid possibility instead of anxious necessity, changes everything.

Here’s me in a ballet class.

I’m 7 years old, living in Adelaide.
Photo by my Dad.

Check out the attention to detail (and tension) in the fingers and the neck.

Somehow all these years later, I have landed in the same haircut.

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Here’s another photo, also by my Dad.

An older girl from my ballet school, on point.

A kind of arabesque.

This was what I aspired to.This was what I wanted to embody.

The culture of anxiety and crucifying self punishment I have been used to living in around my creativity and my doing, since – I guess my childhood – certainly as a professional – is unravelling. I am unravelling. There is no blue print for how I might do what I will do next. No pattern I recognise from my upbringing or schooling or culture to cling on to.

The patterns I do recognise, belong to an older, deeper place. Nature. Biology. The way organisms learn, grow and adapt… there is something there that I recognise… it is like I am in a process of remembering these older deeper sub-cultural (or is it anti-cultural?) processes. Putting myself back together again from scratch. It is at once an Un-learning and a Re-membering. But more on that later.

The last time a big seismic shift in my identity happened like this it was years ago at drama school.

So following 14 years of classical ballet and surviving anorexia, I arrived at drama school doing a pretty good job of embodying the thing I thought I wanted to be. I was walking like a duck – feet permanently in first position, bum clenched, neck hyperextended and with chronic lumbar back pain. And it all felt like ‘me’

My movement teacher had a task. 3 years of Feldenkrais lessons and Alexander Technique later, I was able to unlearn those unhelpful ways of being and rediscover how to walk, sit and stand with ease. But re-building those neural pathways that had become rusty and numb with neglect, wasn’t easy. Because of course it wasn’t just physical work, it was also psychological and emotional work. Those patterns of control and discipline that had kept me ‘safe’ were being challenged and they weren’t going to disappear with out a fight. The process was deeply unsettling to my sense of who I thought I was. It was difficult and excruciatingly slow work, but we got there eventually.

So now, 20 years later, I am faced with a similarly big shift in my state of being. This time I want to say yes to it with as much of myself as I can. In August I begin a 4 year Feldenkrais Teacher training program. This marks a deeper commitment to doing things from ease rather than stress, which is core to the Feldenkrais philosophy.


Feldenkrais Moments
A film by Mariano Nante and María Zinn.
©International Feldenkrais®Federation
courtesy of Bodywise Yoga and Natural Health.

Re-discovering Feldenkrais has felt like coming home. Remembering how this work changed my life has inspired me to recommit to a process that will allow me to bring this work to others through my art, my private practice and all my relationships.

So how do I begin to make art from this place of ease? Even as I write this I have this parental critic in my head screeching at me that I’m being lazy. (Thanks for the unsolicited advice, BRAIN, I hear you. I know you’ll be sure to let me know if my LAZINESS ever gets to a life threatening level. Mean time, beat it.)

Well after 3 and a half years of slow change and making NO work, finally, images, words and the right kinds of collaborators are ready to arrive. Without force. Without efforting.

And some of it feels familiar. But a lot of it doesn’t. And I am encouraged by that.

I like that very much.

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