Thursday, December 08, 2011

Reverb 11 -- Day 8 -- Labels and Joy

#1 -- Prompt: What label/story/box/belief clipped your wings this year? How can you flip the script in 2012? What’s your new story?

#2 -- Prompt: Joy. Take us back to a moment in 2011 when you experienced pure, unadulterated joy.

#1 -- I'm pretty sure of myself: a strong woman, reasonably confident in who I am, what I love, what I believe. I believe in change and in growth. But my belief in who I am and what I can do was shaken substantially recently by a casual comment made by a friend during a committee meeting.

For three years I have participated in an annual theater performance benefit. I've performed the same role -- an outrageously funny, bawdy, even slightly shocking monologue that had audiences -- and the cast -- rolling with laughter. I love acting and am eager to do this piece again as well as more theater in 2012. I think I'm pretty good at it -- I've been told that by people whose opinions I respect, and the audience seems to respond well to my characters, both this one and others..

So. During the course of the meeting, as we were discussing how to get more people involved in the production, my friend commented, nudging me,  that …”we’re getting too old to do this.” I gave her a long look of – I don’t know – surprise? Shock? Denial? – and she added, “Well, I’m getting too old.”

Much later, the ice weasels started their partying, eventually settling into a steady chant of "You’re too old! You’re too old!”  It woke me up this morning an hour before I normally am conscious. And I began questioning whether or not I was indeed ‘too old’ to do not only this particular event, but pretty much anything in theater.

“You’re 64 years old!” they taunted. “You look ridiculous up there, saying such age-inappropriate things and making a total FOOL of yourself! Stick a fork in it, tootsie, you’re done! You’re too OLD to act anymore, honey, and nobody is brave enough to tell you!”

We don’t see ourselves as others see us. I see from INSIDE looking out at the world, and while that ‘me’ is not only perfectly capable of doing pretty much anything she wants to do, she also doesn’t feel ‘old’ (mostly). But I began questioning how OTHERS, especially those who don’t know me, might see me on stage, and concluded that perhaps I AM ‘too old.’ The idea just completely flipped my whole impression of who I am and what I should be doing with the rest of my life, and I didn't like what I was feeling or thinking.

I’ve talked since with a few people who I knew would be honest with me, and I’m not ready to throw it all in just yet. As long as directors cast me in roles and I’m capable of memorizing lines and blocking, I’m staying onstage.  I’ve never done well with labels since I never quite fit into societal or corporate boxes. TOO OLD is not going to be one I allow in my life either, not yet.

#2 – We vacationed on the Oregon coast this fall in a lovely rental apartment that had a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the mighty, mighty ocean endlessly washing over the little beach below our deck. It had been raining and blowing for a couple of days, and we had snugged in with plenty of food, snacks, and reading material.

One particular afternoon, I was propped with numerous pillows on the cushy chaise end of a sectional sofa that faced that glassed wall, and had an afghan covering my legs and feet while I read my lusciously long and detailed novel. Most afternoons I’d close my eyes for 15 or 20 minutes, dozing a little, relishing the quiet, the solitude, and pleasure of just being by the ocean and doing exactly what we wanted to do.

This afternoon, though, Tony had moved from a nearby chair where he had settled with his laptop to the sofa next to me, and put his head on my lap, the rest of him covered with another fleecy afghan. The ocean’s constant roar – louder that usual because of the storm – was soothing, the light was soft, and we were warm and together. With my hand lightly stroking Tony’s head, I closed my eyes and gave thanks for such a perfect moment of joy.

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