Imagine a warm, New England day.
You can hear the murmurs of the crowd surrounding you, but it’s hard to see around the door placed flat, horizontally over your prone form. You can’t believe it’s come to this. You’re not in a compact with Lucifer and you’re not going to rat out your friends to save yourself,so here you are, and here’s another stone placed on the door to crush the breath from your body. What will give away first; your determined will, or your lungs?
In 1692, during the heat of the Salem Witch trials, a man named Giles Corey was pressed to death for refusing to plead guilty or not guilty to witchcraft. His accusers kept asking him again and again, “Will you plead yea or nay to the charges?” His final answer – “More Weight,” wound up being his last words. With those words, he kept his family’s land and legacy intact instead of being put up for public auction. I love that his dying breath was just a huge verbal middle finger to the people who were trying to squash a confession out of him. They pressed the life out of him, but not his passion.
The words are tattooed on my right shoulder blade. I got it last summer as a belated birthday present to myself. It’s a permanent reminder that no matter what life throws my way, I have it in me to handle it – and more.
I’ve taught The Crucible by Arthur Miller in my junior American Literature classes for years. When we first start the story the kids are prepared to be bored but their curiosity is piqued when they hear the words Salem and witches. As we read the story the kids get more and more into the intrigue involved with the events leading up to the hangings. They pick sides and stand their ground when questioned. And they laugh at me because I get really fired up about it.
I love teaching it because of how timely the lessons still are from the events. They can’t believe that many of the events in the story actually happened, and continue to happen even to this day. The kids completely relate to the girls bullying, the adult’s nosiness, and the clergy’s harsh and questionable judgments. It remains one of my favorite stories because it allows me to let my passion for theatre and literature loose in my classroom. Theatre forces you to hold a mirror up to yourself and society and confront what you most fear or desire. Really confront it – not with a whimper but a strong, forceful shout.
Yes, shout! You’re allowed to, you know. When was the last time you were faced with a mounting challenge, and instead of complaining about it, you gave it your best barbaric yawp? MORE WEIGHT. Bring it on! You got this! We expect this kind of enthusiasm from our favorite sports stars but not when bagging broccoli at Wegmans. “Bag all the veggies! GO! GO! GO” It’s like having professional motivational speaker Matt Foley coming out of his van down by the river and giving you a pep talk as you do the dishes. Allow yourself that. It’s a change in perspective that can change how you look at things you may have previously found distasteful. Give yourself permission to cheer yourself on. Sometimes it’s the only cheer you’re going to get so don’t be shy to admit it. At the very least you’ll get a good laugh which is rarely a bad thing in my book.
That level of enthusiasm is a gift we can give ourselves. Allow yourself to be passionate and filled with gusto no matter how menial the task. Believe that you can handle the weight and bring it on. I can’t see you getting crushed under that door – you’ve got this. I know you do.