I am in the coffee shop catching up on some work. A friend stops by my table to ask me what I am working on. I stop pounding at the keys before me and look up at him.

“My life, essentially,” I say.

“What do you mean?” he asks.

“I have to figure out my best career path,” I respond. “I have to determine how best to take care of my boys and me.”

“Oh,” he says. “What’s the confusion?”

“The problem is figuring out which path to take. Do I focus more on my writing, marketing, or PR or do I go back to recruiting something that I did many years ago,” I answer.

My friend then took a moment to paraphrase, legendary actor and acting coach Lee Strasberg. It seems that Strasberg taught his students that before they dove into acting to visualize their body as an instrument. A violin specifically, how a violinist doesn’t just launch into song, but rather carefully extract their instrument from the case, position it, and study it before they begin.

Strasberg is quoted as saying, “The work we are encouraging you to do is not just good work. Good work you are already doing. But the instrument you have is now a little too bound by habits, customs, manners and behavior that you have encouraged in yourself and that end up in just a quietness or simplicity.”

I hear Strasberg. I need not be quiet or simple in a time where I need to defy the odds before me. I need to play my instrument wildly. The problem is I can’t drown out the other music long enough to hear my own instrument. Divorce is loud and pounding. I am forced to make major life decisions (this just being one of them) at the worst possible time.

A time when it needs to be quiet enough to play my instrument well enough to create the best possible melody for my children and me. At the very least to know which song to choose to play.

Strasberg also said:

“Talent is like a fire. No matter how controlled a fire is, sparks have to get off, and the flames have to leap. A fire which has no flames and no sparks is an electric fire, a mechanical fire. To be a real fire there must be that spurt, that burst, even of smoke with chokes a little but which shows it’s burning, that it’s about to flare up.”

I have to sit quietly playing my own instrument long enough to feel the choke of smoke that will free me towards the best possible path.
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