Monday, December 19, 2011

Sharing the Stage... Or, Sacrifice

When I was in kindergarten, I went to Catholic school.  For the Christmas pageant, I was chosen to read the story of the birth of Jesus.  I clearly remember being on stage, reading my little Bible passage and then joining the rest of my classmates in singing Silent Night.  That was the night I fell in love with the stage.  I always had a interest in any kind of public speaking or performing skits throughout elementary and middle school.  In high school, I began performing poetry and I have never stopped - I even have a microphone tattooed on my left bicep and a hummingbird holding a quill on the right one.  When I am on stage, I feel confident and sharing my poetry completes me.  Much of my identity centers on being a poet.

There was a time, years and years ago, when I stopped writing and virtually stopped performing.  I was in a relationship and the person I was with hated the fact that I was a performer. I sacrificed the one thing I have always completely loved because of someone else's insecurities.  The writing stopped because I was miserable.  When I was free from that relationship, poem after poem flowed out of me and I began performing again - and I vowed I would never lose that part of myself again.  I got into another relationship and while he didn't have a problem with me performing, he did try and take credit for my writing (he would tell people he was my inspiration).  He wanted the spotlight but didn't do anything on his own.  I found myself shrinking away from poetry once again because I didn't want him to feel bad, and quite frankly, I was tired of him taking credit for my work.

With Cultura Fuerte, photo by David Martinez 

Once I was single again, I began performing again, in addition to joining a band and I couldn't be happier.  I curate and host a poetry night.  I traveled to San Francisco to perform poetry.  I have met so many wonderful writers, musicians and community members and I love who I have become.  The downside is every time I begin dating someone, I find myself falling into the same pattern: giving up parts of myself because of the man I am dating.  When I was dating Randy, he grew tired of going to events and meeting so many new people all the time.  I invited him to everything and because he liked me, he agreed to go along.  I never thought twice about how this might have affected him (and to be fair, he took a long time to speak up about it).

There is a balance that has to be struck in relationships, and that balance is hard to find.  A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with some girlfriends about sacrifice.  How much of ourselves do we sacrifice to be in a relationship?  All three of us are outgoing, love to be out dancing and having fun, and we are performers (in different aspects).  All of us have had problems in relationships because of this.  The question that kept coming up was: how much are you willing to give up to make something work?  There is no easy answer.

Men always seem to be on board initially.  They like the idea of me being a performer.  It's interesting to them and at first, going to shows seems fun (and not having to pay to get in to a show is always a perk).  Once they find out that it really is a part of who I am, however, it becomes a problem.  To quote Randy, "I was used to going to school and work and coming home.  Now, with you, I'm meeting 50 people a night."  He was exaggerating, of course, but there was some truth to what he said - he was at a lot of events with me and meeting a lot of people.  He was pushed completely out of his comfort zone.

In my quest to never give up who I am, I have had a hard time figuring out the balance.  With Astro Boy, I was completely hands off - I didn't pressure him to meet people, and while I invited him to everything, he rarely went, which left me always feeling disappointed (and ultimately led to our break-up).  Refreshingly, A. went to all my shows and always supported me.  Regardless of how things ended, I can't deny the fact that for the first time, I was dating someone who actually enjoyed what I do as a performer.  That's secondary, however, to being with someone who understands me and lets me be who I am all the time, not just when I'm on stage.

Performers aren't the only people who sacrifice in relationships.  How many of us have sacrificed relationships with friends and family because our partners didn't like them, or sacrificed our dreams because they didn't fit the other person's dreams?  How often have we sacrificed our needs for a healthy, loving relationship because we didn't want to lose someone who clearly wasn't a good fit?  Yes, I have sacrificed way more than poetry because I was too afraid to be alone.

After the conversation with my girlfriends, I thought more about being in a relationship and what it means to sacrifice to be in it.  I don't like the term "sacrifice" because it relates to the idea of giving something up. I've given up plenty and I won't do it again, but I am willing to share my life with someone and be in his world as much as he is in mine.  This takes time and patience.  When there is someone special in my life, I want him to be with me at every event I attend, but that isn't always possible.  It's frustrating but I have learned one important lesson: if the times when we are together are magic, why sacrifice that for mediocrity?

When there is happiness, there is no sacrifice.  In fact, it's just the opposite - I gain so much more than I would ever give up.

Next time: Sorry to bug you... 

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