Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy Talk

There is a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter that goes,
Sometimes you're the windshield; Sometimes your the bug. Sometimes your the Louisville Slugger; Sometimes your the ball. Sometimes it all comes together; Sometimes you're gonna lose it all.

Over the years, this has become our family song. No matter which lyric fits the moment, it always makes me smile. It always puts things in perspective. Because life is just like that. There are lots of ways to say it. Win some. Lose some.
For some reason, though, I find it easier to accept that I'm the bug when things aren't going my way than it is to accept being the windshield. Or the Louisville Slugger.
Right now, things are good.
There's been a dry spell for a while.
But everything seems to opening up to new possibilities. Lovely Felicitous Providence as Gerard Manley Hopkins says.
Why is it so hard to admit that I feel happy? I can say I feel blessed because I have been greatly blessed. I need look no further than my family for contentment and fulfillment. The greatest blessing in my life.
But happy? That's a little scary. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it. I feel happy. And grateful. But I'm always grateful even when I'm the ball. I can always find the gift in the pain. What I seem to have a harder time doing is saying, yes, in spite of everything - in spite of the absolute horrendous suffering in the world. In spite of the uphill climb. In spite of the uncertainty. In spite of the fact that I keep trying to write the opening of my play and have yet to figure out how to do it. I am in this moment....happy. Not just fulfilled or content. Not just grateful or blessed. Happy.
I know happiness is fleeting but feeling it as I do today makes me realize how I've either denied myself this emotion or I've been without it for a long time. I frequently feel joy. I feel joy every time I connect with a dear friend or see the light bulb go on in the eyes of a student. I feel joy regularly in my memoir class. But happiness?
My son graduates from USC in about three weeks. I am proud of him. But this makes me happy. My daughter is slugging her way through the end of the semester at NYU. I know she is where she is supposed to be. And that makes me happy. Peggy has a new red car after chemo and losing her hair. That makes me happy. And I finally can admit that the theatre makes me happy.
Yes. I'm not tempting fate by admitting it. I'm not going to jinx it by saying it. I'm going to just relish in the moment. As they sing in the musical, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," Happiness is anyone and anything at all that's loved by you. I went to the grocery store this afternoon and chickens were buy one get one free. That made me happy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Birthing of a Playwright

After a long apprenticeship
with myself
And a long absence
from myself
I arrive
at the stage door
This time
I pass through the fourth wall
Into the realm of imagination
In the darkness
I push through
into words
into action
into story
a labor
where theatre
is born.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Be Prepared Prepared Prepared (The motto of a true scout)

My mother always had a load of laundry going while accomplishing other house hold chores at the same time. Dishes were never left in the sink. Beds were always made to quarter- flipping military standards. The laundry was always done, folded and put away - never left in a pile in a laundry basket.

Her cupboards in the kitchen were always crammed full of canned goods and extra paper products. Her gas tank was always full. She always had cash in her wallet. "You never know when we might be invaded," she would warn. My mother was always prepared.

This week, after three seven plus earthquakes in a row, we decided it was time to prepare for the big one. Off to Smart & Final we went with an article about earthquake preparedness I had cut out of the newspaper. Earnestly calculating how many gallons of water we would need, how many days of Hormel Chile or Dinty Moore Beef Stew we might consume in the event that we were cut off from any source of food, we piled our cart with emergency rations of protein bars, a giant jar of peanut butter, the biggest container of sanitized hand wipes I've ever seen, and a case of chicken flavored Cup 'O Noodles. We hit Target for batteries and propane. We even bought charcoal in the event that we needed to cook in our old Weber. "Should the big one hit in winter," we speculated, "the coals could keep us warm."

When we got home, we dug into our camping gear and pulled out the propane stove, tent, and air mattresses. For the first time, I unzipped the Red Cross emergency back packs I'd given everyone for their car trunks as Christmas presents years ago, and took an audit of their contents. I was quite impressed. Freeze dried rations, packets of water, a flashlight, a thermal blanket, and a toothbrush all neatly packaged in pouches. I supplemented with the power bars and single cans of chile. I gathered an old pair of athletic shoes, socks, jeans, and a sweat shirt to throw into the trunk in case I had to walk home from work.

Where to put the supplies at home became a topic of serious debate. If the house were to collapse, we wouldn't want the stuff in the garage. Just looking at all the junk piled in our garage, accessing that lantern would be pretty daunting even if the house didn't collapse. We decided to stack the stuff on the side of the house in a small woodshed. That would work fine so long as the brick house next door doesn't come crashing down on top of it. This gave us pause.

The news recently has been full of dire warnings about the seawalls along Naples canals. According to a local city councilman and the Naples Island Improvement Association, the seawalls are in imminent danger of collapse which would lead to houses falling into the water and massive flooding on the island. We pondered this as we stacked the tent and gallon water jugs into the shed. Maybe we should put this stuff in the second floor closet instead to keep it safe from flooding. Then again, what if there was a fire?

Floods, fires, earthquakes. At home, at work, in a car. There simply is no way to prepare for every eventuality.

One thing I did decide, though. I'm putting some Pepto-Bismol in the first aid kit. All that Hormel Chile is sure to bring on an upset stomach.