Sunday, September 24, 2006

Actually, it's half full...

There's been a whole lotta blogging going on in reference to Natasha Bedingfield's song Unwritten. There's a reason for that, you know.

It's my youngest son's favorite song. There is something so endearing about his sweet toothless lisp crooning out "Feel the rain on your skin, No one else can feel it for you, Only you can let it in, No one else, no one else, Can speak the words on your lips."

It matters it matters that it speaks to him, that it speaks to you, that it speaks to us. We're all unwritten. We all have empty pages in the journal, admittedly some of us have fewer pages left than sweet Elyas.

Which brings me to the real topic on my mind...all those pages we've already written upon. We all seem so focused on what we will write, might write, want to write, that we sometimes do not give enough props to those pages we've agonized over, poured ourselves into, or even the stuff we've jotted down on the fly, never knowing until years later how much it really meant.

I have pages, volumes of pages, and you do too. I may be unfinished, but I'm not unwritten. And I'm learning to live and love it. I hope you are too.

It's not enough to know where you are going, you have to know where you've been. And love it. And I do.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In the middle of nowhere

I was driving down the interstate today, thinking. What else do you do when you are driving down an interstate? Like always I'm thinking about where I'm at in my life...thinking about how I got here, thinking about where I might be going. I-80 isn't a very interesting route. Not much to look at, lots of pretty fluffy clouds, dead racoons on the side of the road, lots of trucks.

Like I often do, I notice the cars driving around me, how there is a pattern to the craziness. How you end up kind of traveling "with" someone for awhile, because they are driving about the same speed, in the same direction, and you kind of feel like you have a traveling partner, even when you know you don't. But then they get pissy about a slow driver, or take off on some exit to get gas or food, or slow down because they are nervous about a cop you've passed, and *poof!* traveling partner is gone. And suddenly you are in the middle of nowhere without your partner. Your partner that you never really had. But it was comforting for a moment, wasn't it?

I grew up in a little town that has an event every year called "The Middle of Nowhere Festival." When I was about 11, in fact I know I was 11 because it was the year my sister got married, the year my dad died, Ainsworth hosted the National Horseshoe Championship. Who knew such an event even existed? I didn't, but there we were hosting it. And there was this guy, a professional bowler, who was on Johnny Carson one night telling Johnny that he was on the way to the middle of nowhere to participate in this event. So when he rolled into town he was greeted with a huge vinyl banner that said, "Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere." I guess someone needed to depreciate the expense of that vinyl banner, because it became an annual thing every year thereafter. It's been 25 years, and I wonder how many people in that town even remember why they do this? Anyway, I couldn't help but agree with the bowler. I hated the town where I grew up. It was bland and boring and mean and I couldn't wait to find the world, get lost in a city, own some notariaty. I couldn't wait to get somewhere.

I grew up, I went to cities, I slept with artists, I read great books, explored the dives, and drank up the theatre. I gave birth to beautiful children, and I drank in the texture of the world.

And still I wake up again and again in the middle of nowhere.

What did I miss?

I got home and read some blogs. I talked to my friend. I tried to sleep. I filled out paperwork for my divorce. Finally I plugged in one of my favorite movies, even though I knew it was a dangerous choice, American Beauty. It's a weird movie, because everytime I watch it, I identify with all of the characters, some more than others at different times. I thought tonight that I'm somewhere in the middle of all of them. And I laughed. And then I cried.

Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser, and...they're right. I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn't always feel this..sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.

It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you've forgotten about.

Ricky to Angela
She's not your friend. She's someone you use to feel better about yourself.

Angela to Jane
At least I'm not ugly!

Yes you are. And you're boring. And you're totally ordinary. And you know it.

Our marriage is just for show, a commercial to show how normal we are, when we are anything but.

Angela to Lester
Do you think I'm ordinary?

You couldn't be ordinary if you tried.

I can't think of anything worse than being ordinary.

Lester, closing speech
I'd always heard your entire life flashes before your eyes a second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars. And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. Or my grandmother's hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper. And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's brand-new Firebird. And Janie. And Janie.
And ... Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but its hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. Then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.

I don't know where I went wrong, or if I went wrong. Maybe I'm supposed to be in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that's where it's all at. Look at the miles of puffy white clouds...the semi-trucks racing by. Look at the road kill and all the people racing to get somewhere. Look at the cornstalks whipping in the wind. Maybe there's something here I missed.

You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry. You will someday.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Poor Katy didn't

A real conversation from my life.

D: Mom, remember that Katydid that we caught in Mr. Cute Teacher's room?

M: Sure, very cool.

D: Did I tell you that Matthew caught a Praying Mantis?

M: Yes, I saw him at conferences, remember?

D: Mr. Cute Teacher put Matthew's Praying Mantis in with the Katydid today. And the Praying Mantis ATE him!

M: (Stunned silence)

D: School is just so cool!

The Theatre of Life

My love affair with theatre (and yes, I'm enough of a theatre geek that I spell it that way, not "theater") began as most do I imagine, in a darkened auditorium, swept away in the wonder and majesty of a beautiful story close enough to touch. A story you feel like you are part of, not witnessing. I was four years old and my mother took me to a production of Camelot at the college she attended. Had it been any other production, I can honestly tell you the course of my life might have been altered. This one evening in my life at such a tender age defined me in ways that I'm only begining to understand.

Of course, what four year old girl isn't rapt with the idea of Kings and Queens and dashing knights in armor, and lovely wicked bastard sons working their evil in dastardly ways? That's what hooked me, I loved sweet selfish Guenivere and doddering and loving Arthur. I was enamored with the narcissistic (go figure) Lancelot and squealed with delight at Mordred's charming flavor of nastiness. But the thing that stuck with me from day one to whatever day I'm on today was the scene where the round table was conceived.

Arthur was a well meaning screw up. He had accidentally become king, it had never been his intention to be king, and he wore the title uncomfortably. Finally in a place with the love of a woman that he adores, he wants desperately to be more than king...he wants to be a GOOD king. He races through their chambers as he dresses pontificating about what it is that his kingdom needs. He knows more than anything that it needs peace. As he wraps himself around the idea that the noblemen, the knights of his kingdom, must personify something new, he thinks about who they are. They are the strongest, both physically and economically, of the land. And with their power, they determine how life is for all others. Their might determines what is right. "Might is right," he disconcertedly mutters to himself. Finally with the help of Guenivere, he begins to realize that as king, he can mold a new heirarchy, where all nobles are equal and given equal consideration. Guenivere offers the use of a huge round table that they were gifted for their wedding so that no one would have the honor of sitting at the head, all people would be equal. And as the idea springs to life, Arthur dashes around the room shouting about his ideal kingdom, ending triumphantly with "Not might is right...might FOR right!"
I was caught and my fate as an idealist, bleeding heart, liberal theatre geek was sealed. Might for right. Might FOR right. It resonates at the very core of my being. It is in everything I feel and I do. I'm a little girl caught in my own fantasy kingdom that didn't quite grow up.

But it isn't such a bad thing.

We all know where that story went. Arthur built his beautiful Camelot into a place more magical than he could have imagined. It attracted people from far and wide, including the man who would be his best friend and who would also destroy it all, Lancelot. And it attracted the attention of a bitter son who would have them all die in bitter dissapointment for the sins of his father.
"Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot."

Ok, so if you aren't a theatre person, or don't know the show, I'm probably taking lots for granted. But in the final scene as Camelot crumbles, Arthur sends a young boy out into the world, comanding him to hide and be safe, to live a long and fruitful life, and to tell anyone who would listen about the beauty and the joy that Camelot had brought.

"Run boy, RUN!"

And I was that boy. I'm still fighting the fight, dreaming the dream. And I'm enamored by the fact that my own Lancelot didn't destroy the dream. And I'm wondering if maybe there's a round table hidden in a dungeon somewhere in the depths of my soul that I need to drag out, clean up, and put to use.

Yes, I did.

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