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:
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!”