I've been thinking a lot lately about this Zen proverb - quite the truism, as continues to be revealed to me. Though I like this phrasing of it the best, it has made its way mainstream in such cliches as "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" (a bit testosterone-charged) or what I once saw on a greeting card: "a strong woman is like a teabag: you don't know what she's made of until she gets into hot water" (...gag). Or, as one of my acting teachers once said, "We never really get rid of our problems; we just become better friends with them."
Last week I was out to dinner with a good friend, a former stage manager who is married to an actor. She was telling me about her husband's recent success booking a commercial because of his culinary skills (and the reek of onions as he practiced chopping, slicing & dicing for the audition). "How ironic," she said, "that his survival job is what got him this breakthrough."
But I'm not sure I find it ironic at all. In a very real way, it is our challenges that define us and shape us into the people we will become -- largely because we must change and grow in order to overcome them.
Sometimes I wonder (wistfully) what it would be like to not be so highly intelligent, especially as an artist. I say this not as any sort of bragging right --- there are many, many times when I don't want to be analyzing things on six different levels at once; when thinking is not the best solution to the matter at hand; when I wish my brain came with an on/off switch, or at least a dimmer. Pretty much any time during the artistic process, in fact. There's a reason I've never been terribly gifted at improv.
And yet, my intelligence is a major part of what makes me who I am, rather than who I might wish I were... and it's not an asset I feel like throwing away!
Lately I seem to be riding a wave of what I hope will smooth out into a more integrated existence. I'm jaggedly emotional, continually surprised by outbursts of laughter and anger, crying to friends over beers, but I'm not entirely sure just why. I do know - on the gut level - why can't there be two different words for intellectual knowing and intuitive knowing? - that the answer is not going to be found by thinking it through.
So instead I am living it through. This obstacle IS my path, and I know not where it leads...