Saturday, June 19, 2010

An All Consuming Life

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.” George Bernard Shaw

Someone once told me (I think it was my therapist) that I have a fear of being consumed by my passions.

I think this is true.

I have just returned from a week-long training sponsored by ISTA - the International Schools Theatre Association - on teaching the two- year International Baccalaureate Theatre Diploma Curriculum. Dangerous stuff. As I sat at El Torito last night with my husband, I looked him in the eye and said, "I think I may have done it again. This new job has the potential to completely consume me." And he said, " Yes, I know." And then he added, "It is what you were put on this earth to do."

I think this is true.

I have little evidence to support a counter argument considering my history. Anyone who knows me would see right through my protestations. I am at times, bursting at the gills with creative energy. The thing about a program like the IB Theatre is that it is challenging, demanding, creative, rigorously assessed at an international level - and completely open-ended. Therein lies the danger.

It would seem that my life as a theatre educator includes having a constant battle with myself to set limits and boundaries. I remember my therapist once asking me, "What would happen if you just allowed yourself the freedom to completely immerse yourself?" She said she thought I was afraid I would dive in so deeply that I might not come back up.

I think this is true.

But this time, I'm fifty-one. My kids are launched. My husband, frankly, prefers it when I am creatively engaged - the balance in our relationship is right when it's like that. My boredom is his curse. Not that I've often been bored. But it is a fact that when I am creatively inspired and my mind is pressed against something intellectually and artistically stimulating, I thrive. When I thrive, I am happy. When I'm happy, he is happy.

I think this is true.

So here I am. My heart quickens. My mind races. Ideas surge through me like an electrical current. Yes. Each class has its creative demands - but the truth is I love designing courses. I love putting together a syllabus. I love mapping out a plan. I love scheduling. I love sticking to a schedule when the schedule is planned right. It is evidence of my experience. I can look at a script and know almost to the hour how long it will take me to rehearse. I love it when I follow my instincts and I especially love it when my instincts are right.

I love my doubts. Doubt is a familiar companion with each new production and each new class. Each has its own set of personalities and challenges. But now, at fifty-one, I know that each problem will be solved one way or the other.

I know this is true.

How much luckier can a person be? I get to work in my craft - I get to play in the messy, unformed world of creativity every single day - I get to bring my artistic vision to life for an audience- I get to nurture and mold young lives - I get to think and work hard at something that is unquestionably fulfilling and worth my time and effort - I get to build - I get to risk - I get to collaborate - I get to grow - I get to contextualize - I get to learn - I get to begin again. And I get paid to do it.

People speak of something called "retirement." Here's my problem. Every time I "retire" from the theatre, I am lured back. I have had a love-hate relationship with it my entire life from the time I first stepped on to the stage at eleven-years-old. It is the dragon that must be slayed. The beast that must be tamed. It is, what Jungians call the tension. Now, after forty years in the theatre, I am choosing it. Up till now, it has always felt like it chose me - and thus, had the power to consume me. Maybe this time, we can at last be at peace with each other.

I hope this is true.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Creative Overload

How did it get this way? To even get my fingers onto the keyboard of my laptop computer, I had to pile up paper, mail, calendars, cards, and CD's and then shove the pile to one side of my desk in order to create a small enough space on which to set my laptop. In the pile are two wedding invitations, an order form for my son's graduation pictures, a health insurance re-enrollment form, a photo copy of an article on early parent loss, three school calendars, my personal calendar, and an empty gift bag with red and yellow tissue paper. To the left of my desk, perched on a wooden TV tray I set up in desperation to catch some of the creative overflow - is a stack ( over one foot high) of drafts of that play I was attempting to write, five journals and notebooks. At my feet, there are three canvas bags. One is full of my memoir class materials. The other full of my theatre class materials for my new job, and another is crammed full of stuff from the desk of my classroom from the job I just finished. On the floor, there is a Nordstrom bag full of VHS tapes of all my past productions, three crates full of books and files and a backpack that frankly I'm afraid to look in.
On the counter to the right of my desk is a pile of six binders - each with vital information about various classes I have taught or will be teaching. A red binder contains the script of the musical I plan to direct next spring. And then there is the stack of manila file folders for every hand out I've ever created for every drama class I've ever taught. Twenty-one years worth of hand outs.
Not to mention the dividers designed to keep me organized, stuffed with unopened mail, bills that are calling out for my attention, expired coupons, a roll of ribbon from an abandoned wrapping job and two inspirational CD's on leadership.

And let's not even talk about the garage. Well o.k. let's. White file boxes transferred from my classroom, to the trunk of my car and then neatly stacked in front of the freezer so that I can't open it, filled with - yes you guessed it - more teaching files.
And the giant box of Tri-School Theatre show sweatshirtsI have preserved and took out of storage so that someone could make a quilt sits in the middle of the garage floor. Unopened.
I've gone bloowey.

SOS. I'm officially drowning in my creative endeavors. "Uncle." I'm hollering "uncle!"

This morning in the OC Register there is an article about a service that "de-clutters" and helps home owners get organized. I almost picked up the phone but it was 6:30 on Saturday morning.

Unfortunately I don't have time to dig into any of it because I leave Monday for the IB Training in Florida where I will no doubt begin filling more notebooks and files for my IB Theatre classes starting in the fall.

I have to be "o.k." with living with stacks right now because there is a domino affect. Before I can move the stacks from my desk area and garage at home, somebody has to clean out the office I'm moving into at my new school. I just finished doing this in my former classroom. Labeled all the filing cabinets, made sure there was a departmental handbook and a monthly "at a glance" task document so that things could run smoothly next year.
The irony is that I am actually an extremely organized person. But too much is just too much.

The playwriting class put me on tilt. I will admit it. Draft after draft after draft ....and I haven't yet gotten the opening right. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, I have to start over.
I have lost some appetite for the project and have even questioned its value. Clearly I need a break from that project for a while. Maybe after I get back from Florida and have some down time, I will have a clearer head and will be re-inspired.
For now, the stack of scenes will just have to stay put.

My email has gone unanswered. My daughter's two boxes of summer clothes sit waiting to be shipped to NYC. I've dropped more than a few balls in my personal life. At some point I have to take time to get my life back together. Today, I have to remember pick up my dry cleaning and do my laundry for this trip.