Monday, March 16, 2015

Let it Go

The desk is turned the wrong way.

It is between scenes in the theater, and we are watching as the stage hands are moving around in the mostly-dark.  It has taken longer than expected, especially since the first scene took place outside the curtain.  So the audience's eyes have adjusted to the starlight and we are watching the dark figures move around on stage, placing backdrops and chairs.... and a desk.

And the desk is too light. 

Sure enough, when the lights finally come up, the opening for the desk is facing the wrong way, and Mother Superior is sitting sidesaddle in her chair, because there is no place to put her knees.

She goes to reply in song, and the mic does not work.

Unfazed, she moves to the next part of the scene.

My sister sometimes talks about having actor's nightmares, and what I described above is the kind of thing she fears (well, hers are actually quite a bit worse...).  Seems as though what every actor has a terror of is the unexpected, uncontrollable situation; where something is blocking you from doing what you are supposed to do.  Where what you rehearsed, planned, worked on, and counted on..... simply does not happen the way you expect it to.

So last week when my wife and I went to a performance of The Sound of Music we had a great time.  It was a middle school production, and a friend of mine - Gloria Ruiz - played a spectacular Gretl Von Trapp.  All of the players were amazing, and it was one of the most wonderful evenings of pure entertainment we had experienced in a long time. I really walked away from the performance blown away by those kids.

Yep.  Front row, center seat.

What impressed me most, however, was their resilience.  Things went wrong, and the kids didn't look confused or panicky.  They just played with the hand they were dealt.  Desk turned the wrong way?  Adjust as best you can, and deliver the lines as you are supposed to.
Light doesn't come on when it is supposed to?  Wait.  It will happen.  Dropped line?  Ad-lib a line that includes the missed cue. 

Most of all, take it in stride.

I always feel most at home in chaos.  I like life best when it is messy, and I can see patterns that occur naturally.  But.

But I also have certain expectations.  And I get grumpy when they are not met.  Coming back from a job site, and the traffic is bad, making me late for a meeting?  I get stressed out (and have the $140 speeding ticket to show for it).  Disrupt my plans for a Saturday afternoon, and I feel an unreasonable spike of anger.

Fail to meet my expectations, and feel the hot edges of my anger.  Even if I am able to repress it, I feel that flare.

When, exactly, did that happen to me?  When did I get to the point where my planning - and sticking to that plan - is more important than going with the flow?  When did I stop being able to take things in stride?

When did I become unable to let it go?

I have always had the hot flash of unreasonable anger.  I was banned from a friend's house for overturning a card table after a game of War (a card game invented by demons).  I got in trouble at camp for 'losing it' after losing a game of tetherball (those demons had a lot of spare time to invent games to torture me). And I am not unfamiliar with the stupidity of road rage.

But watching these kids take everything thrown at them in stride and just keep going, makes me want a piece of that serenity.  That flexibility.  That aplomb.

If I can just fit it into my schedule for the day.

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