Note: For the fullest experience, I recommend listening to the podcast, as the audio version always contains additional comments and tangents not found in the blog post version.
I feel like I’ve been away for a solid month. And that’s not far from reality, because I was in Paris and Basel for 2 1/2 weeks, and then I was home for a week recovering from jet lag and preparing for my Creative Sandbox Retreat, and then I was away again at my Creative Sandbox Retreat.
And now, as I’m recording this, it is exactly one month from the day we landed in Paris!
Anyway, Paris and Basel were amazing. Best vacation we’ve ever had.
Even though, I spent the entire time, from the fourth day onwards, on crutches!
Yes, that’s right, on our third day in Paris I developed a raging case of Achilles tendinitis.
I mean, seriously bad. My Achilles tendon was creaking. If you had put your hand on my Achilles — the back of my ankle, right below my calf — while I flexed my ankle, you would have felt it go ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch!
It was creepy.
So I did a Google search in the middle of the night (when I couldn’t sleep, because I was so stressed out about it) for “crutches near you” and the first thing we did the next morning was buy crutches!
Which was a godsend.
It was annoying. And really, really hard. And frustrating as crap. And painful — the skin on my sides got raw, and then I developed, like, callouses.
And let me tell you, using crutches is not just physically challenging, it’s mentally challenging. Because you have to pay attention to not only where your feet are landing, but also where the crutches are landing. And what the crutches might be bumping into.
It’s a lot of work!
And then there were the zillions of questions. OMG, if one more person asked me, “Has this happened before?” I was afraid I was going to brain them!
But on the up side, it’s great exercise! I got super-fit!
And in some cases we got some special treatment. Special entrances to museums. Special elevators. Early access to the Eiffel Tower.
Plus I developed a deep appreciation for how poorly set up Paris is for disabled access. Particularly the Metro.
Suffice it to say, my Paris & Basel vacation was significantly different from what I expected.
But in the language of improv, I accepted the offer that was made, and I built on it.
(Did I forget to mention that the whole reason I was in Paris to begin with was to attend the Applied Improvisation Network world conference?)
“Accept and build” is an improv principle.
In improv, whatever happens, whatever your scene partner does or says, is an offer. And your job is to accept that offer and build on it.
(This is often referred to, in shorthand, as “Yes, and…” but semantically this can be confusing, because one doesn’t have to literally say “yes” when accepting an offer. One simply needs to accept the reality of what is implied in the offer. So I prefer the terminology of “Accept and build.”)
If your scene partner walks onstage and says, “Brrrrr… It’s so cold! But I love the way the snow is sparkling on your parka,” they’ve just made an offer that:
- It’s cold
- You’re wearing a parka
- There’s snow on your parka
So you wouldn’t say, “I’m not wearing a parka,” or “It’s so hot outside,” because that would deny the reality that they’ve just endowed by their offer. You’ve just completely put the brakes on the scene.
Instead, you want to build on their offer. So you might say something like, “I know, that tree just dumped a bunch of snow on me — watch out, I hear a squirrel so I think it’s about to drop some more snow!”
Now we have a scene that’s going somewhere. It’s not a very good scene, granted, but something’s happening.
If I had tried to deny the reality of my tendinitis, I don’t even know what that would have looked like, because I would have been in massive pain. Or I suppose I could have wallowed in “poor me,” and stayed in my hotel room the whole time, but why?
Instead, I chose to accept the offer of Achilles tendinitis and build on it by buying crutches and figuring out how to navigate Paris on them.
Now, it occurred to me, after I got home from my Creative Sandbox Retreat this week, that the same exact thing happened at the retreat.
Not the tendinitis, thank goodness, but the same thing in terms of things not going exactly as planned.
My best friend, who has come to every single retreat, didn’t arrive until super late, so she missed our opening circle.
Her husband, who has come a couple of times, was going to come this year, but then decided to come late… and ultimately decided not to come at all.
One of the other retreatants was sick, and spent Friday and Saturday sleeping in her bedroom — which she totally needed, and I was so glad she got to do that, but I missed having her at meals and at our catalyzing sessions and in the room with everybody.
My best friend, who’s an actor, had several weeks back agreed to do a reading in San Francisco, without realizing that it was the same weekend as the retreat, and by the time she realized, it was too late to back out, so she was gone all Saturday afternoon and evening.
And two retreatants had to peel off early at the end, due to transportation issues.
It reminded me a bit of when I was a little girl and my mom would host birthday parties for me. I would always have such high expectations for these parties, and they never lived up to those expectations, and there a lot of tears, a lot of temper tantrums.
Thank goodness in the intervening years I’ve learned how to accept and build! Because life is live. Life doesn’t always work out the way we want.
Life throws us curve balls in the form of Achilles tendinitis, or people not showing up when we expected.
But when you can accept and build, you can roll with it.
And that’s what I did at Creative Sandbox Retreat. And it ended up being a lovely, memorable, laughter-filled week.
I even decided finally do something I’ve been dreaming about for years, but have never taken from the realm of dream into reality.
I was sharing with my retreatants that my dream has always been to hold more than one Creative Sandbox Retreat per year.
In fact, my Big Dream is to hole them four times per year, but even twice a year would be so wonderful…
So at the end of Creative Sandbox Retreat this last weekend, I actually looked into the possibility of scheduling a Winter Creative Sandbox Retreat…
And not only that, I booked it!
January 30-February 3, 2019
It will be a small one (maximum 7 participants, plus me). The registration buttons aren’t even up yet on the sales page, but sign up here if you’d like me to send you an email when they are.
Wooo! I’m super-excited! My husband’s coming, so he’ll be working on a screenplay. I know he’s going to get a TON done. And at least one of the Fall retreatants is coming, too.
I’d love for you to join us.
Perhaps this is an offer you want to accept and build on.
Wendy Suzuki TEDWomen Talk on exercise and the brain
Also see Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey (aff or click here for a non-aff link)
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