I wholeheartedly believe in the "move in silence" philosophy. I'm stealth like a jaguar, silently entering and exiting rooms without being seen or heard unless someone turns around and catches me in the act. It's mainly because I don't want the scrutiny, inquiry, and critique. This also means that I won't generally do anything that would cause anyone to direct their attention to me. So for the life of me I don't know what convinced me to participate in interplay last weekend.
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Now before you go pick up your phone and ask, "Siri, what is interplay", I'll tell you what it is not. It isn't a new-age take on foreplay. It's actually an introspective, therapeutic-type practice that incorporates moving, storytelling, and voice inflecting. It also has many health benefits including decreasing stress, lowering anxiety, building and improving relationships, and boosting self-awareness and confidence.
Ironically, I walked into the building with my cousin feeling hella stressed and anxious because I didn't quite know what to expect.
The best way I can describe an interplay workshop is that it's improv-ish.
When we entered the classroom, the eight punctual students were paired up in the midst of a "babbling" exercise in which they talked about absolutely everything and yet nothing at the same time. The object was for the person to freely express herself while the other person remained fully present and listened without making a single interruption. Then they switched roles.
The subsequent tasks, which seemed pretty simple, included activities like concocting a convincing story based on a made-up word and telling another story in a child-like voice. Every task lasted 30 seconds, but some felt much longer than others. My only concern at that point was my ability to fictionalize something so elaborate with such ease. I mean, was I an undercover liar? But before I could ponder a rational response to that question, I realized we were only in the warm-up phase and the interplay leader was truly about to test my comfort zone and stretch the limits of my vulnerability.
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She told us to think of something boring and then sing about it in an operatic voice. And if that wasn't horrifying enough, she divided us into two groups so that half of us could observe the other half!
My group was given the word "light". Then, our interplay leader played music for us to dance to while we created a three-sentence story and delivered it to the other group.
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I frantically looked at the clock. It was only 3:20 p.m. Only 20 measly minutes had gone by and class wasn't scheduled to end until 4.
I glanced at my cousin and gave her the it-is-time-to-go-NOW eye.
She grinned back at me.
The music began.
The five-year-old me would have thrown a tantrum and cried. I didn't sign up to feel humiliated and exposed. I didn't want to be a songstress, an actress, or a ballerina. I wanted to be an observer. A wallflower. The person who had to see what something was like first or how someone else did it before she decided that she wanted to join in, too.
The 45-year-old me wanted to flee.
I tried to come up with a step routine disguised as an escape plan, one where I'd actually glide across the room, down the hallway, and out the front door. Too bad I was a passenger and didn't drive there. So in that moment, I vowed I would never return. But I thought about that decision. I didn't want to be that student.
I didn't want to be the one who didn't apply herself.
I didn't want to be the person who ran away the instant a situation grew unfamiliar or uncomfortable because that doesn't work in either our personal or professional lives.
And I didn't want to be a quitter.
I made the choice to dig deep and I uncovered my soprano, baritone, and bass to describe the boring peach curtains with the autumn leaves that complemented the hideous peach walls. I two-stepped and swayed my way back to the time when I lived in a studio apartment in Boston and the only time it saw sunlight was for an hour shortly after sunrise. It always seemed extraordinarily bright.
"There's no such thing as too much or too little light," I began.
My "audience" was in awe at the impromptu stories I told throughout the activities, and something inside me clicked.
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GoodTherapy, an online mental health resource, defines interplay as "a practice based on the premise that play helps people unlock parts of themselves they have psychologically buried over time." For the last few years, I've been trying to live up to everyone else's standards and expectations of me. I've been playing it safe because I'm so afraid of further fucking my life up and disappointing all the Iyanlas who think they have all the solutions to fix my life.
I've also developed the tendency to overthink and create crises that aren't even there or conversations that may not even take place. But when I think about the choices I want to make because they feel right to me, I instinctively feel compelled to defend my choices like a dissertation because I already know they don't mesh with what everyone else thinks I should do.
I used to be a bit more spontaneous. I was a risk-taker, an independent, unconventional thinker, and a big dreamer. I moved differently. I do not flourish when I play it small. I grow stagnant, oftentimes feeling like I'm suffocating or regressing rather than progressing as I simply go through the daily motions.
Interplay forced me out of my head and discomfort zone. It empowered me and pushed me forward. It reminded me that my intuition is my God-given compass, not the guidance of someone who's traveling down a path I'm not even meant to go.
Interplay even reignited my creativity. Last week alone I've written seven articles in five days! On the surface that may sound insignificant, but I haven't even written seven pieces within a whole year in a very long time.
I refuse to keep suppressing who I am and dismissing what I really want to do. And I don't have to explain it or do it based on approval and consensus. I still won't be that person to announce her every move but if anyone catches me making these moves, I won't downplay them or shrink and hide. I'll just stand a little bit taller and let people witness this glow up.
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