Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wilder's Wisdom

In 1996, for all practical purposes, it’d been 10 years since I’d been on stage. I’d done one opera workshop performance in college, performing as a voice minor in a production of The Magic Flute, but I had abandoned my love of theater to focus on being an English major. In the 10 years since I had graduated from high school, I’d studied in my four years of college (getting married half-way through), applied and went to graduate school, started a career as a high school English teacher, built a house, and had two of my three children. But as busy as I was, at the age of 28, I made a decision to audition for a community theater production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.

The story focuses upon an average town and its people, the mothers, the fathers, the children, and other citizens in the community. It carries quiet but poignant messages that are whispered as the play unfolds. Act I shows an ordinary day in Grover’s Corner. Milk is delivered, neighbors take seats next to one another to discuss their gardening and their children. The audience meets the town’s people and all witness the serenity of the lives in the safe little community. Act II occurs three years later as two of the families’ children fall in love and marry.  Act III is philosophical as we’re shown a funeral and as ghosts in the town’s cemetery begin to help one of Grover’s Corner’s recently departed citizens to understand what living is, and how life, every last minute, every precious breath we take, is not to be wasted or scoffed at, even those which come to us on the most seemingly unimportant, most ordinary days. This morning my thoughts returned to Grover’s Corners.

The past few weeks have presented me with a lot to think about. Tough stuff. Questioning stuff. Good, bad, ugly, beautiful stuff. As a friend of mine who is going through similar things said to me yesterday, “This is a really hard time of life”. She’s right. It is really hard. It’s hard to have so many changes hit all at once. My husband and I are losing our Moms, and our Dads are also in need of extra support. They are losing the loves of their lives. And as Wilder said, “People are meant to go through life two by two. ’Tain’t natural to be lonesome.”

We face stress at work and battle as convincingly as possible to keep working at a career with the integrity that made teaching our chosen profession and passion to begin with. And we work to continue raising our children, strengthening our own loving friendship and marriage, and keeping tabs on our own individual needs concerning health and happiness.

So to that end, I took a day for myself on Wednesday. I slept in, woke up and went outside in the glorious October sunshine, and played with my energetic dog. I took pictures to capture the color of the trees and the sky and the joy in my pup’s face as she chased after a soccer ball. I came inside and took out my Mom’s recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and I had them waiting on the kitchen table when my son came in the door after school. I sat down and corrected papers with my big black cat sitting on one of the piles, and I prepared a chicken dinner with my daughter’s favorite mashed potatoes, peas and carrots. I chatted with people from various strands of my life online, catching up with both old and newer friends, and I cuddled up on the sofa in the evening and watched tv with my husband and our kids. It was a spectacular, most “ordinary” of days. The day off helped me pull myself together, to bring me to a place of peace again.

Life is beautiful. Even when it’s really really hard. I say this in no disrespect or denial that cancer sucks and that dementia can be a cruel way of taking away a loved one. I say this without any intention to suggest that it doesn’t get bad and ugly to such a degree that we question life itself. We, at times, get so challenged in our lives that we don’t, can’t, won’t step back to see the big picture.  “Wherever you come near the human race there’s layers and layers of nonsense”, said Wilder. This is all part of it. And the nonsense can be truly heartbreaking and painful, this I know. But it’s also amazing. Life is beautiful and I vow I am going to do whatever I can to step back more often to see the bigger picture, or to at least say a prayer asking for help to hold onto the faith that there is one I am not seeing at the moment.

“EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?"

STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.”


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