When I was playing Lady Macbeth last year, the actor playing my Macbeth and I would find ourselves rather unconsciously speaking like our characters in every day life. “Wife!” he would bellow. “Where have I placed my dagger?”
“Did not you preset it, my love?” I would reply.
“Ah yes, indeed it lies behind the throne,” and so on.
I was in an abysmal show earlier this year in which I played a prostitute (I know, what a stretch). My character Ophelia was sassy and funny, quick with witty banter and one-liners. Suddenly, I found myself getting my funny on all the time and the sass factor had risen threefold, particularly in dealing with the men in my life.
Now, as I am discovering my new character, Heather, I’m not so much taking on her personality as I am her fatal flaw: expectation.
Expectation. It is the state of being expectant. It’s up there with attachment as being a primary cause of suffering. As has this year for a great many people. I think some sense of expectation is valid: we can expect to be treated with a certain level of respect by our peers; we can expect to be paid appropriately for the work we do; we can expect to get food poisoning from consuming three-day-old undercooked chicken. But then there is the expectation of other people, and of events that are beyond our control. Like, I expected to hear from the ex for my birthday; I expected to be accepted by the agent I wanted; I expected people to get that the world wasn’t going to end, just shift; I expected my bitterness towards my failed relationship to be gone.
Look, things happen that we as humans sometimes don’t understand. This year, things happened that I still don’t understand. My character doesn’t understand anything about what happened to her life. Because she, I, and all of us have an expectation that if we do the “right” things, good things will come to us. If I love with all my heart, I will be loved in return. If I approach my craft with dedication and professionalism, it’ll be noticed and I’ll get that part/agent/big break that I “deserve”. If I’m honest with the people around me, they’ll be honest with me. If I have the relationship, the job, the house, the friends, I’ll be a functioning human being and life will be sweet. Right?
Nope. Not always.
Expectation. It’s a hard habit to kick. Because we could do all the right things – and even all the wrong things – but sometimes, for reasons we don’t understand, it just doesn’t go the way we expected. And that, quite frankly, can be devastating. But, I’m really starting to get my head around the idea that it’s also an opportunity for us to get the things we want for our lives in a way we hadn’t considered before. And taking that path freely may lead us to gain other things that we didn’t even know we needed as well as the original thing we were striving for in the first place.
Easier said than done. Yes, well, it can be done. With a little practice, it can be done.
Heather will never know that as she will be stuck in the state of expectation for eternity. Such is the life of a fictional character. But – yet again – the persona I put on for my craft has reminded me of an extremely important thing:
Quit thinking you know how it’s going to be, because you don’t, and let’s face it, if you did it would take all the fun out of it.
And this, my friends, is why art is awesome. Happy New Year.