Final rehearsal for The Vagina Monologues, and it's lucky because I'm about at the end of my extended string ...
I'm finally beginning to experience symptoms of stress. Can't hold a thought long enough to express it -- not only in the script -- but even in conversation. I'm not sure that I've ever experienced this before, and it's frightening.
Now that Dorian is beginning to crumble and the tears flow at the sight of me on each visit, my objectivity is crumbling right along with her. After 5 months of living in a nursing home environment, the signs of depression are undeniable. My feelings of having failed her after a lifetime of carefully preparing her for living without me are now being fully realized. I'm finding it was all in vain. We're here in a time when we're most vulnerable, and all the training in the world could not have protected us from the inevitable gamble that even the best-intentioned cannot escape; random awfulness.
Last night we had the final rehearsal for tonight's staging of Eve Ensler's marvelous play, and I'm no more ready than I was at the first.
I slept most of yesterday (instead of rehearsing my lines) and only rose because the clock said it was time to go to the Craneway to zombie-walk my way through the final reading (the other women have memorized their lines and I'm so ashamed!).
The best part of this adventure is that I've met some of the most exciting women of my long lifetime. Such an array of wonderful women -- from teens to elders -- and all warmed up and ready to roll!
As the evening wore on -- it was a strange experience in that they became my contemporaries; as if recognizable in each of them is a part of what has accumulated in me over the decades. What should have made me feel old and irrelevant actually served to allow me to tap into those parts of myself already lived and that they are on the threshold of; strange, but meaningful and utterly fascinating. There is one other octogenarian in the cast, and several mid-lifers, but I'm the oldest member of the cast. Wonder why it doesn't feel that way? Denial? Probably not; just that I'm becoming aware of one of the features of aging; an increasing ability to see oneself in all of humanity, both the good and the bad. I suspect that the concept of empathy was discovered by someone in their eighties; and probably a female at that.
I wonder what it would have been like these past weeks had I not been carrying the fears (now realized) that Dorian has suffered irreparable and permanent injuries and will be physically disabled as well as mentally-retarded for the rest of her life?
Wonder what those other women are carrying around in the back of their minds and why it doesn't show in their work as I'm certain it does in mine? Is the difference that when we're young there is always hope that time will lend a hand; and that time is a luxury that elders can no longer afford?
Is this the difference? Am I, predictably, losing resilience?
Am I finally and undeniably growing old?
But it's now Monday morning and the show is tonight. I need to arrive at six o'clock for a seven o'clock performance. I will now take my script and go into the bathroom and memorize my lines before the mirror. Maybe I'll get my friend and neighbor, Jennifer, to give me the cues. I'm almost there so it won't be difficult with a little effort. Only a lack of confidence kept me from tossing the script away at last night's rehearsal. I don't really have that many lines, and I've done "performances" for years while guiding bus tours, so what's the hang-up?
I will make my daily visit to Elmwood and try to not be dissuaded by tears and those unanswerable questions, "...when can I come home, Mom?", and then I'll come back and shower and don my black and red "classy" finery and be ready to trod the boards with those other Vaginas!
Photo: The lighting didn't allow for a decent image, but here are a few of the cast (that's Martha Lee, Park Superintendent (and my boss) standing in the back row on the left side. When I hesitantly told her while we shared lunch one day, "...I'm in the cast of The Vagina Monlogues." Rather than gasp in shock, her response was, "I'd LOVE to do that!" "I'll inform the director," says I, and the rest is history. She's terrific! If you'll click on the photo it will enlarge and become clearer. Left to right, Carolyn whose 80th birthday is today, Martha Lee, Shirley Butt, moi, and Michelle Itagaki.