SOMEBODY ALMOST WALKED OFF WID ALLA MY STUFF!
This line from Ntozake Shange’s artistic and in-your-face 1975 body of work, for colored girls who considered suicide/ when the rainbow wasn’t enuff holds a valuable weight as it relates to womanhood.
The original monologue given by Alfre Woodard as ‘The Lady in Red”, mirrored a woman empty from giving too much of self and not fully honoring the woman within. She’s caught up in a space where she realizes she’s giving too freely and sexually overtly. “Stuff” symbolizes the makings of a woman. “Stuff” symbolizes baggage – all the junk and stresses taken from someone else or multiple someone else’s.
In the theatrical play, ‘The Circle”, premiering at The Music Institute of Chicago-Evanston East, February 25-26th, actress, author and playwright Tina Lifford (NBC’s ‘The Parenthood’, The Temptations) brings together seven women who are fed up with others “stuff”. These women, with various cultural backgrounds, are tired of feeling and being treated less than enough.
Through dramatic, heartbreaking and comedic monologues, the sister circle reaches a pivotal point where the baggage is weighing heavy and it’s time to let go. It’s time for a declaration.
“My mission is what I call inner-fitness and what I call inner-fitness is the important development of skills and practices for mental, emotional and spiritual well-being,” explains Lifford who holds a masters degree in spiritual psychology. “The Circle is an extension of my mission which is to bring inner-fitness to life. That means to get people to begin to interact with themselves in a way that acknowledges that they have a worthy self.”
In addition to being an award-winning actress, as a spiritual life coach, Lifford discusses her societal observation as it relates to aligning with one’s self, a sizable component in the intimate production. Within that observation, recognition that people dismiss even the idea of taking the time to deal with their inner being compares relatively low to concerns of outer-appearance and acceptance.
“It’s the forgotten piece,” she emphasizes with a heightened whisper and alert eyes. “And people think that it’s taken care of by religion, but it’s not. Inner-fitness is an inclusion of all that you are. We must be willing to look at what happened in the past and say this happened to me and this is how I felt. We don’t do that and our spiritual guidance doesn’t necessarily say that we need to.”
She continues, “Part of spirituality is getting to an identity of self that it’s so spiritually rooted that you understand this human body has certain characteristics and when it comes to emotions, an emotional characteristic is, if you do not acknowledge what happened to you, it doesn’t heal.”
It’s time to start healing.
The Circle: Alive, Aligned, and Appreciated.
There’s a new paradigm in which one feels that the wholeness of self is a non-factor. While mid-way through her study in spiritual psychology, through an assignment with two other women, where each had to rotate roles and talk about themselves, each time the other women answered questions, their voices were filled with self-doubt, disconnection and unhappiness. Tina was mentally hit with a challenge.
She shares, “I got a little bit afraid because inside of me, I’m thinking I know where they are and I’m not there. I have moved to such a different place in my relationship with myself and I was concerned that if I shared my truth, it would make them feel bad. It was too intimate, too sacred a little circle.”
However, when it was Tina’s turn to speak, after a prayer, truth poured out of her. Tina identifies, “I had contemplated on rejecting myself in order to make those two women feel good. Thank God, me showing up authentically was what was needed.”
It was during that experience that it resonated, moments as such were necessary for people around the world.
Already a part of her own life circle and knowing the power and benefit, when plans of writing a non-fiction book met its temporary demise, all energies turned to creating what is now known as ‘The Circle.”
“’The Circle’ had been on my mind for about four or five years. [It] really started talking to me and I woke up and made a bunch of appointments to interview women. We would just sit and have a conversation and they would say or share a story and something in their eyes or a little bit of emotion through their voice or something in their body would register in me in such a way that I would leave there and go home and I would [type] a monologue effortlessly.”
Partnering with friend and dramaturge, Shirley Jo Finney, the uniqueness of voice that lived within Lifford’s writings became individual story lines about self-acceptance, the mother-daughter relationship, human relationships, breast cancer, and sisterhood.
Learning self is an ever-evolving and never-ending journey. And the make-ups and jagged edges of that journey are the experiences – good, bad and indifferent. The shades of grey we have to endure to be able to share our stories and our wisdom.
Tina Lifford’s work in the arts offers a grand contribution to the revelations of self and building genuine sisterhood bases that many of us shy from. Just as author Terry McMillan titled her work, ‘Getting To Happy’, it’s possible but we have to first acknowledge, accept, forgive if applicable, and let go. That’s the healing cycle.
“When you know yourself, you are empowered. When you accept yourself, you are invincible,” a wise phrase from Tina.
And in the end, declare: I AM ENOUGH!