Sunday, August 25, 2013

When the wild one surfaces

Last night I was in a 10-minute play festival, works by local artists, one performance only, after a month of rehearsals.  The role was an amazing one: an 84-year-old woman in a nursing home after a lifetime of living to the fullest.  She still dyes her hair, never leaves her room without full makeup and nail polish, but after having spent most of her weekend nights out dancing she is stooped, beset with tremors, and reduced to using a walker. So I shouldn't be surprised to find that when I woke this morning I was still struggling with the aftermath of last night's emotional outpouring.

The tension between the fullness of possibility and the restrictions of reality is finding painful echoes in my own soul.  I had seen glimpses of that earlier in the week, when after rehearsals I'd find myself driving home with all my windows down, the sunroof open, and rock music blaring loudly from the car speakers.  I assumed that was just a sort of cleansing, purifying, trying to get that sense of being old out of my system.  Well, maybe a little bit of thumbing my nose at society, too -- as in, "I may be 64, but I still love to boogie; put THAT in your pipe and smoke it!" Which was really my character's attitude, not mine. Or so I thought.

But last night, after the show, I had the chance to go out and party with other cast members, and instead I chose to spend time with my husband and my daughter (who had come to the island for the occasion).  I made that decision partly for good reasons -- I don't get to see her often enough, and wanted a little more time with the new boyfriend to see how they interact together.  But mostly I made that choice because I felt a desperate need to rein in the wild woman seething just below the surface, the restless beast awakened by the play, the one who loved being outrageous and thrilled to the applause and laughter she evoked; the woman who knew she was good at what she did, was proud of it, and adored the response of the crowd.

That woman, I thought, might just be capable of doing something the rest of me might regret in the morning, and so I brought her home and put her to bed.  But now, this morning, she still pulses below the surface, chafing at restrictions in my own life that I thought I had grown comfortable with. So of course -- as is so often true -- my reading this morning seems to speak directly to the tension I am experiencing:

"We fear disturbance, change, fear to bring to light and to talk about what is painful," says May Sarton,  "and when a relationship deteriorates... it may be simply that the chance for growth has been buried, 'so as not to make trouble.'... For weeks and months I have allowed myself to be persuaded into a frustrated pseudopeace to spare the other.  But if there is deep love involved, there is deep responsibility toward it.  We cannot afford not to fight for growth and understanding, even when it is painful, as it is bound to be.  The fear of pain and of causing pain is, no doubt, a sin..."

"It is a time of change," she goes on to say, "and I say to myself that line from one of Rilke's 'Sonnets to Orpheus:' 'Anticipate change as though you had left it behind you.'" Is it truly a time of change, I wonder?  Or simply a stimulus response; a tension to acknowledge and then release.  Somewhere beneath the questions lurks that age-old one from Mary Oliver -- just what am I to do with this one wild and precious life?

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