If you can have an in-body experience, I had one. By in-body experience I mean the opposite of an out-of-body experience. I really don’t know if either are really a thing. It’s just the best way to describe a way I felt for the first time a month ago.
First, some background. The experience of being an adult and still feeling things for the first time occurred to me upon completion of my Masters in Education degree in 2010. My friend and colleague, Terri-Lynn, and I were sequestered in my bedroom for privacy after the unreliable internet connection at her house kicked us out of our final online class where we needed to present our research study to our prof and classmates. Hurriedly and panicked, right in the middle of another colleagues’ presentation, we endured the quick drive to my house where hubby and children were enjoying a typical Sunday afternoon. Like a flash of lightning I hollered to all that we were there and not to be disturbed. After our approximate 10 minute hiatus we were back online, sitting on my bed, hoping our absence wasn’t even noticed. Before long, it was my turn, followed by Terri-Lynn’s. The joy and excitement was building as our final session, the completion of a 3-year professional endeavour, was coming to an end. When we signed out and closed the computer on that chapter of our lives for good, it happened. I t was a feeling. Jubilance, elation, pride, accomplishment, personal victory – all rolled up in one. We ran downstairs to my kitchen and jumped and hugged and laughed. In mid air a thought occurred to me – I have never felt ‘this’ before. I have felt all those aforementioned emotions, but not this particular medley, not to this degree. It made me appreciate the moment even more – to stay there – to savour it. Captivating was this notion that in adult life there will still be new emotions.
For Christmas 2002 a cousin gave me a copy of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. I read it in one sitting while laughing, crying, tensing, reflecting. In February 2003 I attended a live performance of the book at our local Arts and Culture Centre. I made a commitment to myself after the show that someday I would perform Reclaiming Cunt on stage. I wanted to get the audience to chant my favourite pejorative word. I knew I could deliver it with the passion it required. But more importantly, I wanted to be a part of that V-Day movement.
I never forgot about it, per se. But I never actively pursued the opportunity either. Life continued. I reread the book a couple of times over the years. I watched Eve Ensler’s performance of it. I never loaned the book out for fear of not getting it back. It meant something and I always wanted it nearby.
Last year I met a woman, Jackie, who would become quite influential to me. During our conversation she happened to mention her involvement with the local annual production of The Vagina Monologues. Enthusiastically, I shared with her my desire to perform in it one day. We became Facebook friends and carried on with our respective lives. Out of the blue on a lazy Saturday afternoon in January 2018, I got a Facebook message from Jackie telling me that auditions for The Vagina Monologues were ongoing that weekend. I was so touched that she remembered our conversation. And I was so ready to do it. Immediately I signed up to audition the next day. In my coveted book I turned to Reclaiming Cunt and started to rehearse. By the next afternoon I knew it by heart and how I wanted to deliver it. I got dolled up in a tight black bodysuit with sheer arms, and black pants. I straightened my hair and showed up. I showed up. A few days later I found out I got the part!
The month that ensued was a whirlwind of new opportunity for me. I became a part of something. I became a part of a group of extraordinary women, each with their own story and presence. I became a part of theatre. I learned a bit of the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff. I became a part of the global feminist movement. My voice would tell someone’s story. I became a part of something that mattered. I mattered.
Performance night came on February 18th, 2018. Twenty-eight friends, family, and colleagues came out to see me perform. I was absolutely beaming with joy and gratitude to have so many people care so much for me. The set was small and the venue quaint. When I stood to perform the monologue that I had waited 15 years to do, I felt like I was getting a big hug for on my left, my right, and smack dead in front of me, were familiar faces all there to be a part of this moment with me. “I call it cunt.” The first line.
I knew my part and I was careful not to rush it. The stage was facing a mirror and I simultaneously caught an image of myself in the mirror and my medic alert bracelet (from recent diagnosis of Addison’s Disease). That’s when the in-body experience happened. In that moment I thought to myself, “You are doing it. Right now. This is a life moment. Live it and be here. It’s happening.” All the while the words of the monologue were coming out of my mouth! I actually paused in the middle of my performance to recognize how it was feeling to be doing it. I watched it in the mirror. I had never felt the power of aliveness so strongly before. It was wondrous.
I came back into my performance for the part where I got the audience to chant the word with me. “Cunt! Cunt!” It was a moment I will treasure forever. The high stayed with me throughout the entire next day. I was afloat with that undeniable feeling of presence.
We will never grow out of new emotions. But they are bred out of new experiences. As we get older we sometimes tend to do the things we’ve always done the way we’ve always done them. We believe it’s too late to start something new. Or we are simply afraid to try. I hope this blog encourages you to think of the last moment you felt alive. Cherish it. Then plan your next one! Go capture those new emotions. They’re waiting.