Sunday, December 18, 2011

Performing as peanut butter

A little background on two points:

1) for the past six weeks, I have been rehearsing then performing a show, Dziewczyna, as the sole actress/singer in this multi-media theater/music piece. A huge project that has taken up so much of my time that I haven't written a blog post since October.

2) in Weight Watchers, we identify foods as red-light, yellow-light, or green-light foods.  Green-light foods are foods that you can easily control without over-indulging (or that have little impact if you do, like vegetables), so you can go for them anytime.  Yellow-light foods are foods that you can control only in certain circumstances -- say if you are out somewhere so you can order a single serving -- so you much approach them with caution.  Red-light foods are foods you can't control, ever.  You don't just consume them, they consume you.  So if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, you have to avoid those foods altogether. 

Peanut butter is a red light food for me.  If I have peanut butter in my house, I will eat the whole jar with a spoon.  And what that does to me -- the resulting weight gain and feeling crappy about myself -- isn't worth the pleasure I got from eating the peanut butter.  So I don't have it anymore.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that peanut butter is bad for you -- it's actually really good for you.  But it is very high-impact.  If you eat much of that, you can't eat much else all day without gaining weight.  So I found a substitute, this low-fat stuff called "Better 'n Pnut Butter", that I can have 2 full tablespoons of for just one WW point.  It's not as good as peanut butter - nowhere near - so I'm not tempted to eat it with a spoon.  When I need some protein and don't want dairy or meat, it's a great option that I can control and doesn't cause me to sacrifice other things I want.

What does this have to do with performing, you ask?  When I gave up performing, it wasn't because I didn't enjoy it anymore, it was because I didn't like what it was doing to the rest of my life.  I didn't like all the crap that went with it, the sacrifices, the time away from friends and family, the anxiety, the constant stress, the frustration of not being where I wanted to be career-wise.  Performing wasn't inherently bad for me, I just didn't like the trade-offs anymore.  It had become a red-light food for me, so I gave it up altogether.  And eventually I found some substitutes -- writing and teaching.  These things help fill me creatively, and still allow me time and energy to exercise, be with family and friends, and sleep.  These are green-light foods, nourishing, healthy, things I can have while keeping my life in balance.

It is not an entirely fair analogy, though, to equate writing with low-fat peanut butter.  Writing is an incredible art, and it satisfies me creatively in ways that performing never did.  But there is a part of me that is a performer, an actor, that thrives on the stage in front of an audience as if I was born there, as if I was meant to do nothing else.  Therefore nothing else will ever quite entirely take its place, just as fake peanut butter will never be the same as real peanut butter.  Even if I have figured out how to be quite satisfied with the substitute.  Maybe even satisfied enough, given the trade-offs.

And I felt those trade-offs these last six weeks.  Doing this show took me away from finishing my play when I wanted.  My friends were frustrated with my lack of availability.  I wasn't able to put the energy into my teaching studio that I needed to (and since that pays my rent, that is dangerous!).  I got sick, twice.  Fortunately not for the performances, but it reminded me how much I hate hate hate hate hate worrying about getting sick.  And let's not forget exercise and diet -- those things have definitely fallen off track the last several weeks (and I've gained a couple of pounds to prove it). 

Is it worth it?  Is the joy of inhabiting a character, of being present in the moment, of telling a story, moving people, giving people an opportunity to laugh and cry and forget themselves, and, yes, to hear that I'm "amazing" over and over again, worth all the sacrifices?

Can I apply the Weight Watchers advice I have heard (and given) hundreds of times?  That sometimes it is better to have some of the real thing in a controlled, balanced fashion, than to continually try to fill a craving with something that isn't quite what you want?  If you are perpetually unsatisfied eating how you are eating, you will not be able to stick with it.  Sometimes, you just have to eat the real peanut butter.

I did figure out a way to eat peanut butter once in awhile this summer -- it turns out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the only thing I can eat while on 50+ mile bike rides.  Anything else upsets my stomach.  So I get to have them once in awhile, but only on days I'm biking more than three hours.
Can I can pursue performing again while maintaining my other priorities, just as I figured out a way to sneak in a little peanut butter without derailing my weight?  I don't know.   But I think I owe it to myself to try.  It's time to make performing a yellow-light food instead of a red-light food and see if I can handle it.
blog comments powered by Disqus