Learn Your Lines

I am in a play. I have a role, a small one. It had seemed like a good idea, but now opening night is tomorrow and I realize that I haven’t learned my lines. I have no idea what my cues are, when – or why — to enter and exit. The part was so small I hadn’t worried about it, but with less than 24 hours it’s time to get busy. I open the script and begin leafing through looking for my part. The script seems to grow, the pages multiply and soon it is as if I am wading through “War and Peace.” I can’t find my part, maybe because I don’t remember the name of my character. I’ll go to the beginning where the characters are listed and surely I’ll be able to tell which one I am….maybe a maid? a messenger? a beggar?  By now the pages are in the hundreds and I can’t find my way to the beginning. I am panicking. I wake up.

It’s an old favorite of mine, a nightmare that is always there when I need one, a standby called upon in times of stress. It’s a wonder I don’t have it every night, for these days I have no idea what my role is, what part I should be playing. This particular play we are all in is being written day by day, new pages, plot twists, characters.

I do have parts I am playing every day in an effort to stay healthy and sane. In March when the self-isolation order went into effect in New Mexico, I made a daily chart to keep myself focused, to keep from sliding into slothdom.

These are the boxes across the top of my chart. The dates go down the left hand margin:

  • Indoor exercise
  • Outdoor exercise
  • House/yard project
  • Doing good
  • Mind/spirit
  • Other, like professional work

I found that the key was filling in the “doing good” box and the “outdoor exercise” box. No matter what else I did or didn’t do, no matter what the nightly news told me, I could end the day with a feeling of satisfaction and relative peace.  Roberto and I made dozens of masks for Navajo country, cooked for the homeless shelter, shopped for shut-in friends, and sent checks to organizations and causes in need. We wrote letters to the editor about issues of justice and equity and supported candidates in a variety of ways. I walk almost daily through the arroyos, up the hills, across fields in our neighborhood, marveling at the mountain silhouettes on the horizon, the fantastic clouds, the silence, a glimpse of a cottontail, the scat of a coyote. Yesterday I saw a family of four deer, parents and two teenagers, so poised and graceful, moving through the piñon and juniper brush.

As the months go by the harmony of the chart is ever more challenged. Now, on October 30, I am still filling in boxes, knowing that it is better than not filling in boxes. But the recent events, the escalation of distress, violence and hatred call for more. My nightmare is a message to myself from my depths:  “Lucy, you are in this drama, so find your role, small as it is, learn those lines and get busy. The play has an indefinite run and it starts now!”

16 thoughts on “Learn Your Lines”

  1. So well said, and universally true. Finding our roles helps all of us make the drama more manageable. I appreciated the imporant role you continue to play by sharing your calm wisdom with the rest of us.

  2. Dear Lucy and friends,
    Everyone I know is deeply anxious. Everyone says they just want it to be over. I do, too, but then I think that if Trump wins I’ll wish I was here, in these days of anxiety and unknowing. I try and imagine the days after the election when the answer is final. Win or lose, how do we go forward? If Biden wins, I can imagine how the Trump supporters will feel: exactly like I felt when Hillary lost; stunned, saddened, worried about our country. We all believe that we have the right answer and the solutions. Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan was a stroke of genius because even though we Ds see it in a different light, we want that. We want an America that treats immigrants humanely and with decency; we want to finally end racist practices even as we struggle to end racism itself; we want American innovation to find answers to pandemics, climate change and poverty here and in the world. We want America with all of its wealth to be a truly global leader – to be as great as we once believed it was when we were children. But our visions of what it means if America is a great country are so different. And muddled. Lately I’ve heard Ds say that they worry if Biden is elected because their personal fortunes are so good right now under Trump. It’s a very short sighted analysis of the economy, but what it says about our personal interests outweighing the common good does not bode well for the America I want to see. We can blame Rs for being selfish and “me first” but we Ds are that way, too. We’re just not as open about it. The hard work of really making America great means a reallocation of resources, personally and as a country. I wonder if we win, will we stick around for that work, or call it a day? That’s my nightmare- that if we get a chance, we don’t follow through.

    1. Wow, Kay, that is profound and rings so true for me. I especially appreciate your imagining “the other side” and their feelings. That’s a big step for those on both sides and one that I think is critical. And, yes, you nailed the real nightmare — that given the chance to make significant changes, we will just breathe a sigh of relief and return to business as usual.

  3. what a great metaphor. my mother used to tell about her Christmas nightmare: It was christmas morning and she had not bought any presents, or food, or decorated. It was like she had totally forgotten, and then woke up. OH NO! and for a mother in the 1950’s that was totally unacceptable. Obviously, anxiety around the holidays.
    I am glad you are keeping busy, and healthy. and optimistic. most important, keep a good outlook, stay positive, and love your neighbor (as you have been doing). walks, fresh air, good food, loving community, all add up to a great society. I think you are playing your role very well, even without the play’s director.

    1. You make me smile, Linda. Thanks so much for sharing your poor mother’s nightmare. I can relate to that one, too! And what a good point….where’s the director????

    1. How can you be as old as I am and dash off an emoji like that?? I spent more than a few seconds wondering what was “less than 3” before I saw the heart. <3 back atcha.

  4. This is my first month to read your blog, inspired by reading Re-Centering. Exactly what I needed as I struggle to create and fill my boxes. Through Zoom, this time has been wonderfully expansive for me in places I am able to go and groups I am meeting with. But it certainly feeds my desire to stay unexercized and indoors. New month, New resolutions.
    Unfortunately the type-face in your comments and replies is so faint that I can barely read them.

    1. Hi Rachel and thanks for joining us! Good luck with your version of the chart, and remember any box filled in is better than a box not filled in. I will contact my webmistress and see if there is a way to darken the comments type face. Thanks for letting me know.

  5. Once again, Lucy, you speak for us. Can’t for the life of me figure out how to do anything helpful in this election in the time of COVID, when I think the world hangs in the balance. I also appreciated your thinking about the other side. I read that 70% of likely voters think that if the”wrong” candidate wins, the country will never recover. Ojala that Biden wins, and what a healing, unifying challenge he/we will have in a time when we want so many things to happen so fast. I fervently hope that we have that challenge and, of course, rise to it. I recommend that folks read anything by George Monbiot — or watch his TED talk about reclaiming the story of who we are — a species that thrives on community and belonging.

    1. Thank you, Ann, for wise words. I, like you, work hard to hold space in the middle where we might not see “the other” but rather see “each other.” And thanks for the introduction to Monbiot — will look him up.

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