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Every little step.

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2009 at 9:58 pm

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Part of my plan for my alone weekend was to see a movie, preferably three. Luckily it’s summer, which means the movies out right now tend toward action and/or juvenile humor, so my list of three was pretty easy to make: Adventureland, Goodbye Solo, and Every Little Step. Alas, my other weekend activities—the dinner out, pedicure, hike in the Marin Headlands, the lunch out—meant that all I had time for was one movie, so I had to put more thought than usual into the selection. Since I had just been telling my husband about how I volunteered as an usher at Memphis’s Orpheum Theater (where all the Broadway touring shows came) while in high school and how seeing A Chorus Line was kind of lifechanging, I decided that Every Little Step had to be my pick. (I also thought it was the one my husband would have the least interest in.)

Not even a minute into the film, I got all goosebumpy hearing the music, just as I had when I was 16 and sitting on the aisle stairs watching the live performance at The Orpheum. The documentary is wonderful, even if you care not a whit about musical theater (for me what distinguishes A Chorus Line from other musicals is that it’s a musical about musical theater, so it’s not jarring when people break into song and dance). Marvin Hamlisch is adorable, and the original producers (who are putting on the revival in 2006) are still as passionate about the show as they were when it debuted in 1976. And the documentary is unusual in that it has two frames: 1) a loving recollection of/tribute to the origins of the show and its original creator and director Michael Bennett; and 2) closely following the producers and performers as the revival is cast.

The crowd erupted into applause when it was over and I left the cinema inspired, singing “One” at the top of my lungs all the way home in the car.

48 hours.

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2009 at 9:47 pm

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My husband did a great and wonderful thing last weekend: he took my daughter away from me. It wasn’t very far (just to his parents’ house in Orange County) and it wasn’t very long (48 hours almost exactly), but the psychic break it provided was beyond measure. Our daughter goes to daycare 4 days a week, but there’s something very different about having that many hours together all at once. The brain space normally reserved for parenting—and the things that go with parenting: cleaning, grocery shopping, working, etc.—are freed up for thoughts, ideas, feelings, conversations that are edited out of the busy life of a working parent. I missed my daughter and my husband, to be sure. And I was very happy to greet them at the bottom of the escalator by the Southwest Airlines baggage claim when they returned home. But for those 48 hours, I wasn’t a parent or a wife. It was lovely. I hope to return the favor sometime soon for my husband. And hope that we can give each other more frequent mini-versions of this break in the meantime, and beyond.

Death, being aware of the reality of.

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2009 at 7:48 pm

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I mentioned Pema Chodron in a previous post, and in our move, I was reintroduced to a set of cards (there are 60) that I bought a few years go, each of which has a little thought for the day on how to cultivate compassion which has a side benefit of cultivating happiness. I put these on my new desk. Each card has a gold front and one fairly cryptic line, as in the first one in the set that says:

“First, train in the preliminaries.”

If you turn the card over, you get Pema’s very succinct and clear commentary. For this one, she says:

“The preliminaries are also known as the four reminders. In your daily life, try to:
(1) Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life.
(2) Be aware that the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone.
(3) Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result; what goes around comes around.
(4) Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness.”

The point in her commentary that struck me when I read it was the one about death. Because I’ve had a lot of prolonged illness in my immediate family, I was never much afraid of death; it always seemed preferable to having some horrible, debilitating disease. And I always thought that I was quite the enlightened genius for feeling so unafraid of it. But since having my daughter, fear of death hangs around at the edges of my consciousness almost all the time. My primal fear is of something happening to my daughter, which is so unimaginable it’s hard to even type. But also I fear something happening to me or my husband. How much we’d miss with her if we were gone and how much harder and sadder her life would be if one of us weren’t here for her. Being reminded that death is inevitable is so difficult now. I know it’s good to be reminded, though. I know it builds strength, like a good set of pushups. But that doesn’t make it any easier.