Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stop Moving

It was almost impossible for me to get to the computer today. The binge is working. I don't want to blog anymore. A Year Without Internet sounds like a wonderful idea.

Nick stopped me this morning. I don't remember what exactly I was doing. It might be that the task seemed too urgent to allow itself even to be named, or maybe there were so many tasks intertwined that I couldn't distinguish. I've sung a few sad songs here to the effect that my husband works too much (and what is too much?...etc, etc.) but this last week he has actually been in tech, and everybody here who does theatre is nodding sympathetically, "Oh, yes, tech, the time when production departments start work at their usual time in the morning and then don't stop until until sometime in the early hours of the next day."

Yes, tech.

This morning I had one small window, squished between events, during which I was not the primary caregiver for our babies, and every domestic, personal, interpersonal and intellectual pursuit clamored for preferential treatment.

"Pick me! Pick me!" That's the laundry. "You're going to be late." That's the clock, counting down the minutes to my next obligation. "Yoo hoo!" There's my car registration, who is apparently in character similar to a yodeler, reminding me that it will save time in the long run if I can just get ahead on all my paperwork. The hardwood floors are reminding me that Stella is going to crawl any day now -- she's already mobile via rolling and wiggling -- and under the radiators is disgusting, and those three books I just ordered are sitting on my desk, probably gathering dust, because I'm not much with a dust cloth, and...Oh! I have got to get on the phone because Thanksgiving is practically tomorrow and I haven't even asked what we're supposed to bring.

And Nick stopped me. I guess it was for a hug, or just to get me to notice that he was home, which is the rare event that started the whirlwind in the first place. And for a moment, I stopped, and the world seemed very simple, and manageable -- if only for a moment -- and I thought, how powerful this is: the gesture of stopping. You can, just stop.

I'd love to tell you that when I started moving again all those pressing concerns were magically gone. They weren't. But, then again...I don't know. We made it where we were going on time. Stella hasn't started crawling yet. I still need to take care of the car registration, but the paper pile didn't combust, or even grow.

"Stay put."

So says the angel, America, to her unwilling prophet in Part Two of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Halt the mass migration, she demands. It is causing tremors in heaven. Your constant, incessant movement is disrupting the fabric. There is no continuity. There is no zeitgeist. You must find a way to stop moving.

If you could, would you un-invent the automobile? Would you undo the industrial revolution? Would you return to an era pre-Enlightenment?

Well, sure, if it didn't also mean I would lose my right to vote. And my washing machine. And American democracy.

We can't stop the flow of progress. There's been quite the campaign, for as long as I can remember, asking Time to (please) reverse directions. We just can't seem to get that bill to the floor.

But we can use these imperfect instruments, ourselves, as best we can, to keep discerning our direction. And artists are a part of that, as storytellers are. We are the mirror -- not James' mirror now, that cold piece of glass, but Shakespeare's living players -- aiming, with the highest level of our consciousness and the very best of what it is that makes us human, "to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure."

In my case, this means that I have to stop talking long enough to hear what I have just said. I have to catch the self-conscious preening, or the invective, or an unsupported statement like, "the American work week is getting longer and longer," by which I mean that my husband's work week is getting longer and longer, because the next show is about to open and he is in tech. I found all three of those mistakes in Thursday's post and then fixed them, feeling strongly that I had worked on it for a too-short period of time and with a too-cloudy mind.

You see, this is what a bunch of blogging does to me. It makes me sloppy. Experiment over. Can I go?

But this is also my directive. Blogging, for me, is an experiment only in the sense that I tend to look at everything as an experiment, because I am an ongoing learner and passionately interested in cause and effect, particularly in the field of human motivation. As much as it might tempt my theatrical imagination, this is not Woyzeck and his diet of peas. There is no Doctor, paying me to do dangerous things to myself so that he can take notes on my gradual descent into madness. This is not really an experiment. This is my life.

And, more specifically, this is my work. I've created no unnatural impulse here. I have a certain set of skills and impulses that lead to this. Whether on a blog, or in the theatre, or someplace else I haven't been yet, this is what I do.

The above is my explanation -- for you and for my tired self -- of why I don't get to take a day off. And why I'm here, even though it is barely under the wire, and it is night, and I am tired, and I risk making more mistakes. As my husband very kindly offered, it is a matter of discipline.

Stop moving. It requires an act of will. Stop moving, and look around.

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