Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Through The Tunnel

The entrance to the tunnel tells me that we are almost home. I feel a mixture of relief (who wouldn't be relieved after a day of driving?) and dread (because with home comes the work and responsibility of home). But the tunnel is quick, and before I know it, we are on the other side, for better, for worse, for now.

There can be a great many tunnels in our lives, some of which feel not nearly as quick as this one on this day. We enter, hopeful about our ability to reach the other end. We brave the darkness, the unknown, the trapped feeling. Sometimes, our time in the tunnel feels endless--will we get through the experiences that challenge us, frighten us, make us sad? Sometimes, though we know there must be light at the other end, it feels as though it will take forever to escape the darkness and reach that light. Once in a while, if we take a deep breath, we manage to speed right through. And once in a while, we find ourselves stuck for longer than we'd care to admit.

The problem is, just as I have to brave a tunnel (ok, I can do a bridge, but still) to get me home to New York City, we all have to get through the tunnels sometimes to get through our lives. We have to make it through the tunnel of loneliness to find companionship. We have to make it through the tunnel of despair to find our way to hope. We have to make it through the tunnel of failure to see the light of success. And we have to make it through the tunnel of fear to feel the strength of confidence. Staying in the tunnel, whether it's the one between New Jersey and New York or the one in our heads, is not an option. And that, I suppose, is how we know we can survive the tunnels. We will make it through to the light on the other side because, well, we have to.

The tunnel is over and we are home. Which doesn't mean I'm not facing plenty more tunnels. But, one way or the other, I intend to come out on the other side.

Great Expectations

There is nothing like the anticipation of something big. You lay the groundwork, you imagine the result, and most of all, you allow a feeling of unbridled excitement to fill your body and mind. It was like that when I was directing on One Life to Live, it has been like that when I have approached milestones for my kids, it is like that when I start a new project or take a new trip. And I suppose I have raised my kids to be not so different from myself, because I see them experience the same thing. Expectations can be huge. They give us an excitement that simply trudging through life can't match. They let us imagine and dream. They show us the top, not just the muddy middle. And I am proud that I have shared an ability to have great expectations with my kids.

But I would be kidding myself if I didn't realize that I had also shared with them the result of great expectations--that sometimes, when expectations are great, reality can't possibly keep up. When we allow ourselves to imagine and dream and feel that unbridled excitement, we leave ourselves open to the crashing feeling when expectations are not met. 

It is a hard lesson to learn--how to be both open enough to expect and self-protective enough to insulate ourselves when we have expected too much, to be both attached enough to be excited and detached enough not to be dashed. They are learning, and I guess I am learning right beside them. Because I won't stop having expectations. But maybe someday, I will be better at surviving those great expectations.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Change Of Scene

I am constantly amazed when I go to a show and the scenic, prop, and costume changes between scenes are quicker than seems humanly possible. There is, in fact, not much that drags a show down for me as much as having to wait too long between scenes while a set piece is being dragged off or a series of props are set just so. And so, I suppose it is not that surprising that an effective change of scene in life makes me pretty happy too.

We don't travel much. Somehow along the way, with the ups and downs of work, and with the adventures of parenthood, the hours of life got largely taken up with just getting by--financially, logistically, and even emotionally. All of that doesn't necessarily leave time or energy for hefty vacation plans. What I've realized, however, is that just as a show can impress me simply with fluid scene changes, life can satisfy me with not just with the extravaganzas, but with the occasional change of scene. When we spend a few days with different people, we gain a new outlook. When we eat different meals on a different schedule, we satisfy a different hunger. When we walk out the door to different surroundings, we see that we can fill our days differently than we thought.

Just as in the theater, the change of scene has made a big difference. The show goes on. And I am eager to see what will happen next...

Tradition And Change

It is not hard, when part of a family, to fall into certain traditions--what you eat on Sunday nights, where you spend Thanksgiving or Christmas, what you do for vacation. Traditions are great--they give you a direction, and a sense of security in an ever-changing world. But what happens when a tradition changes? When your go-to restaurant is no longer there, or one of your group is not with you, or time or distance just don't allow you to do what you always do?

As the years go by, and my children age, and our circumstances seem to change daily, we are learning to let go, a little, of certain traditions, and to embrace new ones. It is not easy. There is the moment of "what?" There is the moment of "but we always..." There is sometimes a pit in the stomach or a moment of paralysis in the face of change. And sometimes, there are tears for what once was. But then, there is picking ourselves up, and accepting change. There is taking a deep breath and starting to create a new tradition.

Traditions are great--they give us direction and a sense of security in an ever-changing world. And maybe, just maybe, having them gives us the strength to change them when we need to. So that we can make new traditions, and find the new direction and security that keep us going.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Getting In, Part 15: Move-In Day

I have thought at a number of points, each of them a random number, that this series of posts was over. And yet, clearly this is a longer process for all of us than I imagined. And so, on this first day of my first child living at college, a few things that I have learned:

1. It becomes clear how little you can live with (as opposed to how much you DO live with) when you are suddenly sharing a small room with a stranger.

2. There is nothing like carrying bags up to the second floor to make you glad you were prudent about the number of bags you brought.

3. There is nothing like carrying bags up to the second floor to make you grateful that your child's room is not on the third or fourth floor.

4. That case of water that you carried up to the second floor becomes well worth every pound after a few hours of moving furniture and unpacking bags in that small (and un-air-conditioned room).

5. The pretzels and doughnuts don't hurt either.

6. It is a good thing that teenagers have opinions, because after the first few decorating decisions, you are happy to hand over responsibility for where any item is going to go or any poster is going to be hung.

7. A dorm room across from the floor's bathroom can be a very convenient thing.

8. A dorm room floor may not be soft, but it is perfectly fine for an impromptu nap after enough trips up and down the stairs.

9. Plans are good, but leaving room for things just to unfold can be better.

10. Goodbye is hard, but as it turns out, it is survivable...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Getting In, Part 14: Community

As we packed the car to drive my daughter to college, we ran into one of her preschool teachers, who happens to live in our building. She, of course, congratulated my daughter, and asked where she was going and what she'd be studying. And then she continued on our way and we continued with our packing. I couldn't help but be moved, though, by the full circle feeling of it all, which, I suppose, has struck me throughout our preparation process. We are surrounded by people who remember the tiny curly-headed child all those years ago, and who, in their various ways, share this milestone with us.

In a city where it is often easy to feel anonymous (whether you choose to or not), there are times when you are not so anonymous at all--when you are reminded that you are part of a community, because of where you live or what you've done, or simply because you have crossed paths with the same people for what has turned into years. There are the people who fill your everyday life, who are actively involved in your choices and your emotions. But there are also all sorts of people at more of a distance for whom your life matters. And I suppose this gives me hope as we send that now grown child out into the world. If there is such a community that surrounds her now, surely there will be all kinds of new communities that will, seen or unseen, help to surround her as she continues on her path.

We will go home to questions from relatives and friends, and from all the people we simply see on the elevator or to whom we say "hello" on our daily paths. Because, whether we have chosen it or not, we are part of a community--many communities, actually--and they are part of our journey too.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Microcosm

Some days, my world seems so small--sleeping in preparation for work, sleeping to recover from work, watching the time, preparing food. What is the importance, I wonder, when the focus seems so narrow?

But then I realize that what feels narrow is just a microcosm of what is not narrow at all. A great deal of life is preparation for what we want (or need) to do--whether you are a gymnast training hours daily, or a pianist practicing into the wee hours for a concert, or a just a mom juggling family by day and work by night. And for all of these people, recovery is an equally big part, whether recovery means icing down limbs or resting fingers or grabbing sleep when possible.

It is easy to feel less than accomplished when we look around and see that others' endeavors are bigger, or brighter, or seemingly more important than our own. We appear just to be muddling through the everyday, while they seem to be soaring toward greatness. Yet, when we break it down, our steps, while perhaps smaller, are no less important. We are doing what needs to be done, and we are taking the necessary daily steps to do it. For some, there will be applause or a medal, for others, simply a paycheck or a hug. But the steps in the process continue, a microcosm of the steps that are being taken all over to keep life moving.