"Hi, My Name is Shame"
If I tell myself it’s just a character, I take its power away.
Late February, I was blatantly avoiding emails (read:scrolling mindlessly through Facebook and pressing the refresh button every 30 seconds in the hopes that something new and entertaining materializes on the screen which almost never happens), when I came across a post by an old college friend and collaborator. She was seeking dancers for an ongoing project and I thought “why not?”.
And that is precisely where I got stuck. Right out of the gate, my anxiety, a tightly-wound, high-strung thing who takes up perpetual residence in my brain and plays My Chemical Romance on loop, raised its voice and said, “Why in the name of Gerard Way would she hire you?”. It then proceeded to name off a delightful list of reasons why this will more than likely go horribly wrong.
-You’re out of shape
-You’re out of practice
-You’re socially awkward and suck at putting yourself on the spot
-You’re generally awkward and will probably embarrass yourself
-You haven’t spoken to this person in some time and that makes you an awful friend and human being
-She will probably say no
That last one usually does it. That two-letter word has the stopping power of a brick wall.Immovable. Foreboding. Rough and scratchy and not at all pleasant to climb.
What I tend to forget, however, is that brick walls have to come to an end somewhere so why not walk around? Adjust course, proceed as planned. I’ve learned a thing or two about dealing with my anxiety and that usually means reminding myself that it is wrong. A lot. It doesn’t provide solutions, only nerve-ridden assumptions that rarely, if ever, actually come into fruition. Thankfully.
So, I sit up straight, open a new email draft...
And here I am.
But here’s the thing about my angsty little buddy: It is a constant, worming its way into nearly every single facet of my life. Some days it lies dormant, napping quietly, only to be jostled awake by even the smallest of minor “concerns” moments later. It is the exhausted, berated so-n'-so dragging Shame and Regret around by the collars.
While my anxiety does aim to protect me from potential undoing (and probable embarrassment if I’m being perfectly honest with myself), those other two nip at my heels, pinch at my skin and offer nothing constructive in return. I have learned to live and communicate with my anxiety, to understand its purpose and accept it. When I feel the panic rising, I ask myself why it is sounding the alarms and adjust course. It’s a learning process. We’re still in it, my anxiety and I, but we’re making progress. We make a pretty okay team.
Shame is a different beast entirely. Shame is the throat-crushing reminder that every choice you ever made, even those made in self-preservation, was a mistake. It tells you that you dug your own hole as it stands at the precipice, pouring dirt over your head by the fistful. It sits on your chest at night, whispering alternate endings and conspiracy theories in your ear like a caffeine-addled teen on Tumblr in the wee hours of the morning.
It is catty.
It is relentless.
For years I willingly carried Shame around on my back, letting it goad me down a path of its choosing. And it wasn’t scenic. But I wasn’t blind. I could still see other paths pass me by, but Shame would wrap its bony fingers around my chin and wrench my gaze elsewhere, directing me down the road that forced me to re-experience those awful moments over and over and over and over and over….
Suffice it to say, it’s a nasty little bugger.
So… Why am I sharing this with you? What does this have to do with this dance? When I sent that email, I had no clue I would be stepping into the role of an old adversary. I would be facing it head on instead of feeling it hover behind me. I would have to acknowledge it, study it, and become it.
In a bizarre turn of events, my reticence towards Shame faded almost immediately. By taking on Shame as a character, it humanizes it and makes it just as fallible. It holds less power over me because I see that it, too, is wrong more often than not. It bases its arguments on cognitive distortions, not reality.
It is a voice that speaks only in lies coated in a thin veneer of skewed truths.
This production is not a representation of the triggering event as it actually happened, but how the mind mangled and obscured it. That distorted sense of reality is what the mind latched onto and shook loose from a ramshackle narrative built on the lies of faceless voices. However, when we give faces to those voices and place them in a physical space, they are still frightening, don’t get me wrong, but at least we are fighting an enemy we can see on turf we can control.
This project represents every performer’s personal battle; the skirmishes we managed win and those we lost with grit and determination looking forward towards the next round. It is a shared experience of tenaciousness and acceptance. It offers a safe space to begin to understand those voices and how to lessen their hold. We are all an extension of the Hero, their fears, their mind, and their resolution.
I am Shame.
I am a character.
I am Shame but Shame holds no power over me.
- Molly Hillson
MOLLY HILLSON (SHAME), originally from Seattle, Washington, is a Chicago-based dancer and visual artist. She began her training with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Colorado Youth Dance Theater, and received her arts endorsed diploma from Denver School of the Arts. Since completing her BA at Columbia College Chicago (‘13), Molly has since performed with many wonderful artists around the Chicago-area and is currently on staff with the Joffrey Ballet and Synapse Arts. Molly is very excited to join the Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble for i bet you think this dance is about you!
See Molly perform as, "Shame," in, i bet you think this dance is about you.
Friday & Saturday, 8pm
May 10, 11, 17, 18
1650 W. Foster Ave, Chicago
Click here for tickets!