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April 17, 2015

Judgy McJudgerton

I'm a rules person. I like to know the rules, I like it when people follow the rules, and I like to enforce the rules. I'm not saying I'm proud of this, but I do know this about myself. (There are, of course, exceptions, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll just fess up to being a rules person.)

Tonight in improv, I was that rules person. I got a little bunched up last week over people wanting to know the purpose of activities before we did them, or trying to constantly analyze or compare, but what I realized tonight is that I'm just as annoying, but about rules. I see rule breaking, and I want to fix it. It's not my job in improv to fix it. It's my job in improv to embrace it.

I didn't figure that out tonight until I was leaving, of course. I went to class despite being sick. I tucked in against the wall and watched. (So I didn't even have a chance to fail. Last week's goal averted.) Before going, I knew it might be hard for me not to interject. To just observe. It was. And the several times I did interject, or comment, I regretted it. I didn't just lightly regret it, but at the end of the night I left feeling ashamed and a little broken. I'm that person, I thought. I'm that person who can't keep my mouth shut, who always has something to add, who steps in to what should be in the instructor's domain. (This isn't new knowledge. This is old stuff. I've been that person probably all my life. And although I'm aware of it, I just keep...on...doing it.)

And it really bothered me. Last week, I felt like I failed because I didn't let go and get in there. This week, I felt like I failed because I overstepped my bounds and made people feel either annoyed or badly about themselves. They've probably already let go of it, I thought, and I probably should too.

But then I thought something else. Okay, I thought, my challenge for next week is no constructive criticism. No helpful hints. No gentle reminders. "I love the way you ___" or nothing at all. Pick out the bright spots.

When I was religious, I liked the idea that is wasn't my job to judge people. That was God's. Just so, it's not my job to judge people in class. That's for the instructors. My job is to embrace my fellow players and everything they do. One of the students today brought in a thought from a class he took over the weekend: Everyone is a genius. No matter what I think my next idea was going to be, whomever I'm working with is a genius, and what just came up is the best possible thing that could have happened.

I'm not saying it's going to be easy. My job is to judge less, and I'm just wired for it. Judge, judge, judge. (Yeah, pretty sure I'm not alone in this. And there are tons of reasons it makes sense to judge, but we'll leave that for another conversation about evolution or psychology or sociology or whatever.) Myself, and others. The judging gets in the way. It gets in the way of flow.

So there's my challenge. And a way to be more present. That's my present, to me. I hope I like it....

But before I close, let me wax poetic a bit about what it was like to be tucked into the wall. People in this class are super nice. Just a real pleasure. I sat and watched while people did a goofy warm-up, making funny noises and motions and stretching out their mouths and eyebrows. I sat and watched while people tried things they'd never done before. I sat and watched while people experimented with ideas they'd never had before. During an exercise in which you have to walk briskly around the room pointing at things and calling them something else (e.g. touch a chair and call it an elephant), I was called Statue of Liberty, ballerina, hooker, and puppy dog. (Yes, commence with the jokes. Take your pick, and very funny.) This was all pure joy. The two newbies who couldn't make class last week were amazing. Just stepped right in there. I was impressed by the lack of hesitation and self consciousness, the inventiveness, the willingness. After some games, people would say, "That was hard," but it didn't look it from where I was sitting. One of the newcomers said, at the end of the night, I just realized that with improv we leave the rest of the world out there. None of the rules apply. All the rules we're supposed to follow (a-hem), all the things we're supposed to do or be, the ways we're judged, we just leave it out there on the other side of that wall. That's pretty cool.

Yeah. That's pretty cool.

Posted by beth at April 17, 2015 4:55 AM

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