Guest Blog: Rebecca Atkinson-Lord talks about facing her fears

In this blog post, creator Rebecca Atkinson-Lord talks about facing her fear of performing her show about facing fear.

Catch her show How to Live Dangerously on Tue 17 and Wed 18 September at 7:15 pm

It’s one week away from the very first ever work in progress showings of my new show How To Live Dangerously at CPT. The show has been a couple of years in the making and I had the first idea for it waaay back in about 2010. So it feels like I have quite a lot invested in it. This week, I’m mostly focused on learning lines. Except right now, when I’m writing a blog about the show at CPT’s request. Apparently it’s traditional for theatre artists to want people to see their work. Right now I’m not so sure about that; the show is still in that place where it feels really personal and vulnerable and if I’m totally honest, the idea of anyone coming to see it and then passing judgement makes me feel a bit sick. Every time I learn a new section of the text, I feel this little wave of fear because it means that I’m one step closer to actually saying it in front of people.

 

But I’m a grown up, so a big part of my life is making myself do things that scare me. Even when I really don’t want to. I think performing a new show is somewhere in between walking into a haunted house and applying for a mortgage on the fear scale. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like I just wanted to give up on the show because it was too much to think about saying some of the words I’ve learned this week in front of an audience of my peers. But don’t worry- I’m pretty good at making myself do stuff that scares me, so I’m not going to quit just yet.

 

Have you noticed how much of daily life is about ignoring your instincts and fears? Or, weirdly, about giving in to them. Human beings are really bad at judging what they should and shouldn’t be scared of.  A few weeks ago, as I was walking home, a little girl tripped and fell in front of me. She was only about six, so I rushed to pick her up and comfort her. Her mum, who’d been out of sight round the corner when she fell, came running over yelling at me to get away from her child. I guess she was scared that I was going to abduct her or something. I’d just done what felt like the right thing – helped a crying child. But clearly in doing so I’d made myself into the sort of monster parents fear. So I did some research – and do you know how long you’d have to leave your kid outside and unattended before they were abducted?

 

According to a 2002 US Department of Justice Study the average child stands a 0.0002% chance of being abducted by a stranger and a 0.00007% chance of not being recovered alive[1]. Or to put it another way, you would need to leave your child outside and unattended for 500,000 years in order to guarantee they’d be abducted by a stranger, and 1.4 million years to be sure that that stranger would murder them[2]. In those terms, stranger danger seems pretty harmless. Especially when you consider that 1 in every 8200 childbirths results in death[3]. So it’s much more likely that kids will die before they ever get home than as a result of someone snatching them on the street. Maybe we should be worrying about that instead?

 

And there’s no shortage of other things to worry about. For example, did you know that

  • 1.4 cigarettes

or

  • 2 months in a brick house

or

  • 6 minutes in a canoe

or

  • 300 miles in a car

or

  • 1 chest X-ray

or

  • 40 tablespoons of peanut butter

or

  • 5 years spent outdoors at the site boundary of a nuclear power plant

 

Will increase your chance of dying by 1 in 1 million[4]?

 

No neither did I.

 

It would seem that living life at all is fatal. So maybe we should stop worrying and just get on with it.

 

And when I think of it like that, it makes being scared of performing a new show seem much less important.

 

So please do come and see it. 17 & 18 September at 7.15pm.

[1] US Department of Justice, National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children, October 2002.

[2] W. Cairns, How To Live Dangerously, New York, 2009. P45.

[3] UK Health and Safety Executive, www.hse.gov.uk

[4] R Wilson, ‘The Daily Risks of Life,’ Technology Review, February 1979, pp. 41-46 http://users.physics.harvard.edu/%7Ewilson/publications/pp212.pdf