Our internet service has finally been restored, after hours spent on the phone with uncooperative support people and a week of relying upon smartphones and the occasional cafe.
Oddly enough (other than the frustration of telling the same story over and over to people who assume I'm an idiot and then hang up on me) the most disturbing thing about the week was not being able to post decent photographs on this site. My (admittedly now ancient) cellphone can produce photos, but they don't have the clarity I crave, nor are they capable of the subtlety of light and color my camera can provide.
But is that really the issue? Isn't this site about allowing words and images to work together to share whatever it is they have to teach us? And if that were indeed true, would the calibre of either really matter all that much? I suspect it's not just about standards; it's about pride, and vanity, and that constant obsession with how others might perceive me and/or my work.
... which might also explain why I wasn't fierce about inviting friends and family to see my play last weekend. I mean, I loved the play, and I came to truly love the people who brought it to life; it was a wonderful experience. The audience -- such as it was, a house perhaps three-quarters full -- loved it as well: the kudos keep rolling in. But another part of me was, I confess, a bit ashamed of the work: it was, after all, pretty hokey; the singers were frequently off key and out of tempo; the actors flubbed their lines and the musical accompaniment was pretty sparse.
My question is -- does that really matter? Because there was so much joy and laughter in that production; so much freedom, so many opportunities for people to bring their own magic to it... I really do believe it brought -- for however brief a time -- light, and promise, and possibility into people's lives. And isn't that more important than perfection?
As always, I am left with a lot to ponder -- and enormous amounts of gratitude for all that has transpired these last four months: from the invitation to write to the thrill of having the words flow through me; from the terror of all those missed rehearsals due to the flu that went around this winter to the joy of seeing the full cast on stage together at last only 4 days before we opened... Life truly is a mixed bag, full of promise, hindrances, and surprises. And so far I am grateful for it all.
PS: if you can tolerate community theater and enjoy happy endings and bad puns, you can watch a video of our efforts here. This link will take you to Love Hurts Act I; Act II is then readily accessible (and is probably the best of the two). Each is about half an hour long.
I spent about four hours yesterday -- and five the day before -- on the phone with CenturyLink, trying to resolve our internet problem. The one member of the family who would be free to attend my play was too sick to come, but she sent these lovely flowers. And the play, which had limped along in apparently unproductive rehearsals for weeks, finally came alive and was a huge success at its opening last night: folks are coming back today and bringing their friends, and there's talk of making it an annual event.
So where do I put my focus? On my frustrations over a non-functional internet? On my success as a playwright? The ego loves to go to those places; to poor me, and to proud me. I think instead I'll just sit here at the kitchen table, staring at the trees and grass and sky that are my stalwart companions, and breathe in the divine scent of the flowers. Life will always have its ups and downs; best to just appreciate the moment.
This is a private message for any of my readers who may be upset by the new US administration and its policies. If you voted for our current president, you may not want to bother reading the rest of this post, except to see what the other side might be thinking. But for those of you who are opposed to the changes currently taking place, though I stand with you, these are words you may not want to hear. It is, I agree, great fun to poke fun at our new president; he makes an easy target, and there are lots of amusing things you can say or do to make your friends chuckle or recoil in horror. I confess I, too, have been guilty of succumbing to this temptation. But what you need to know -- and my daughter figured this out a long time ago in an incident described in an earlier post -- is that bad behavior happens on both sides of the political fence, and what is shocking on one side of the fence does not suddenly become acceptable on the other side. Our job in times like these is to rise above the fray: as Michele Obama has said, to take the high road. I can see several reasons for doing that right off the top of my head: 1. By descending to name calling you're no better than the opposition 2. By getting caught up in the crowd mentality you can be easily categorized (whining loser liberals) 3. In getting caught up in the drama you may be missing more important things that are going on 4. In promulgating the jokes and expressions of outrage you are perpetuating the divisions that led to the problem in the first place 5. Spending all your time being outraged and lashing out is bad for your health and bad for the health of those around you. I also -- strongly -- suspect that one reason our president is the kind of person he is is because people have been treating him this way all his life. It's probably too late to love him back to health (although, as the Ohio State motto says, "With God all things are possible,") but I'm sure that by now he is immune to any verbal slings and arrows we hurl his way, although they may -- like sticking pins in a dragon -- just make him angrier. Not a good idea. So sending him postcards -- as several friends have suggested -- to "overwhelm the man with his unpopularity and failure" is probably an exercise in futility. And, quite frankly, it's the easy way out: it's a 13 year old child responding to parental discipline by saying "I hate you" and slamming the door. These are very difficult times, and we who care about the future of our children and our environment cannot afford the luxury of childish behavior. We need to be mature, calm, rational, centered adults; steady and strong in our principles -- which up until now have NOT included mocking those less fortunate than ourselves (and I do consider our president to be someone less fortunate). We need to remain attentive to our own needs and to the needs of those around us. We need to act in ways consistent with our theology, principles, philosophies, talents, and characters; we need to be light enough on our feet to be ready to hear and respond when we are called to act, and when we do act we need to do so from our deepest core of beliefs. A friend asked what I propose as more productive ways to respond (as opposed to angry postcards to the White House) and I listed the following:
1. March if and when you are called to march.
2. Postcards/phone calls to congressmen and senators
3. Postcards and calls to businesses doing business with Trump family
4. Give money to the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center and Planned Parenthood
5. Give money to other agencies affected by Trump/republican policies and cutbacks
6. Find new and better ways to volunteer in your community
7. Reach out to people you know who are republican and work hard to establish common ground and figure out why they made their choices. Build a relationship of trust and listen to them: they need to know WE ARE NOT THE ENEMY!
8. When there are policies and decisions that trouble you, run those policies by your Republican friends and ask them to explain why they think it’s a good idea, whatever it is. Tell them what scares you, and give them a chance to reassure you so you can figure out what their perspective is and where they’re getting their information.
9. When you read something on Facebook, check your facts before passing it on -- and if it's at all inflammatory, well... just let it lie there. People are trying to inflame us, because that’s entertaining. And when we react badly, adding fuel to the flames, they point to it as “more bad/stupid liberal behavior.” (Thank you, Doris.)
10. Make extra time to find and stay in touch with your spiritual center; a constant state of outrage is dangerous to your health and to your ability to reason wisely.
12. Trust that God (a) loves EVERYBODY, even Republicans and (b) can work through all things, even this, for good.
In the end I believe that each of us brings a particular gift to this situation, and may even be called to act or speak in particular ways that may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar. We need to stay VERY attuned to our inner guides to be able to respond when and as our particular gifts are needed; we cant hear that call if we are busy shouting obscenities at Washington and to our friends.
As you can see from yesterday's post, we've had a small snowstorm here. Beautiful, to be sure, but a trial for all the travelers attempting to leave Seattle for sunnier climes.
I'm thinking now of two dear friends who headed to the airport Sunday afternoon to fly out for a vacation in Australia -- celebrating his 60th birthday, her newly-minted PhD, and (presumably) Valentines Day.
After a series of delays for de-icing, they were finally deplaned and sent to a hotel for Sunday night. Attempting to take the same flight again on Monday, they were delayed again and missed their connection to Sydney, but at least made it to a hotel in San Francisco Monday night. They're hoping to catch a flight to Sydney today, but flash flood warnings are keeping them tied to the hotel -- and all of this without luggage. Oy!
It was as I was reading the latest in their series of misadventures that I pulled into the parking lot for my weekly meditation group and saw smoke pouring out of the hood of my friend's car. She called her husband but his truck was stuck in the snow. Fortunately when she saw flames she called 911: the firemen arrived very quickly, but the car is now totaled.
As John Lennon once said, "Life happens when you're making other plans." But what do we do with that? Those of us who like to think of ourselves as "spiritual" know all too well how quickly those "rise above it" thoughts go out the window when difficulties hit -- or at least that's true for me. I think I'm pretty chill, but something will come along to set me off and I'm just as distraught, or angry, or irrational as the most nauseating politician. Will I ever grow up?
It's easy to beat ourselves up over our reactions to life's troubles -- especially when we pride ourselves on being calm, cool, and collected. All that reading and meditating and you're right back where you started: ugh! The good news, I think, is now -- when I realize that's what's going on -- I'm a little better at stepping back from the fray; a little better at listening to my heart; to my fears and my anger (or, in some cases, my inappropriate exultations). I can catch myself in mid-eruption and scale it back, even if only a little.
And though the first thought in my head is almost always "You're an idiot!" I'm following that quickly with "No. You're not an idiot. You're still learning." If nothing else, I'm getting better at understanding what triggers me and why; tracing back the self-perceptions that get shaken in the storms; bringing them out to air and dissipate -- it's all good.
Yup. No matter what you've been planning, life has a way of happening anyway; of pulling the rug out from under us. I'm trying to learn to think of that rug as a magic carpet, and just hang on for the ride.
Back in November I received an email asking if I might be willing to help develop a script for a play. I love to write (you might already know this about me) and I love a challenge, so I said yes.
A week or so later I met with two women from a little all-volunteer community theater in a neighboring town, and they explained that every year the theater puts on a free performance for its season ticket holders, but that the woman usually in charge had been transferred to another town.
She had left us with a title -- Love Hurts -- a date -- the weekend before Valentine's Day -- and a setting -- the waiting room of an urgent care center; it would be our job to come up with a set of songs, a group of characters which could be played by the usual suspects (a group of singing actors familiar to regular attendees) and a script.
So together we pored through song books and began choosing songs, devising characters and imagining a rough outline of a plot, and at the end of the meeting it was my job to go home and write a script that would tie it all together.
By mid-December I had a script written, and copies went out to all the actors, and boy howdy -- let the drama begin! First the director got pneumonia and was pretty much out of commission for a month, so rehearsals didn't begin until mid-January. Two of the actors were buying a house and missed rehearsals either for dealing with realtors or refinishing their new floors; several of the actors came down with the flu; we had a lot of trouble finding a pianist and the one we did find had to eventually be replaced -- and that was just last week.
Two different men we found to play the role of the wise janitor (who has a solo and two rather important soliloquys) quit before ever even attending a rehearsal. The choreographers backed out. One of the quartets who were supposed to wander through backed out. The director's laptop, which she'd been using as a prop for the receptionist's desk, was stolen from the prop room, and the stethoscopes she was collecting kept disappearing -- it really seemed this show would never take off.
But a friend of mine stepped in to be the janitor; two talented cast members took over the music; two more talented cast members crafted up some fun dance moves for us; another laptop was found and somehow things began coming together in spite of it all. And last night -- one week before our final dress rehearsal -- we finally had the entire cast on stage together. Last night was the first time it actually looked like a play. And watching it I realized how incredibly hokey it seems -- I even broke into giggles during one of the janitor's monologues.
Because in times like these, love -- and community theater -- seem a bit like a foolish dream; like a bit of fiddling while Rome burns. In the immortal words of a friend who responded to a recent facebook post I wrote, calling people to be more respectful of our compatriots on the other side of the bubble, "It's all lollipops and rainbows." But in reality, it's not. It's grit, it's hard work, it's staying on the path when the going gets rough, it's soldiering through, hanging in there, improvising when necessary, reaching out for help, and working together in the hope and belief that there really is joy and beauty and promise and new life somewhere in the world, and that that is worth going the distance.
This may not be a great production. I may not have written an award-winning script (ya think?), the dancing may not be perfectly coordinated, the voices may not always sing on key, the actors may flub their lines on occasion. But watching it, I see it as an act of love; a gift to a community of people who long to believe, if only for an evening, in happy endings.