Cool. I figured out how to put two short videos of Artie on my blog page. Not bad for a 60 year old! The one with our wedding is a slide show of the idea of running memories backwards. It starts with his obituary and ends with my favorite picture of us together and has the song "Snuggle Puppy". The one with the two of us has a song about beginning again. The writing under the picture is the plaque that is on the bench in Central Park.
I watched a movie and they had this old story about two mice who fall into a vat of cream. One mouse gives up and drowns. The second mouse tries so hard to get out he churns the cream into butter with his little feet and escapes. I'm afraid if I was the second mouse, once I discovered I'd made butter I'd be in danger of being a contented, fat little mouse who forgot to get out!
I took a class this weekend called 15 Second Scenes. I had still unravelling from the anniversary of Artie's death brain. On Saturday I showed up at 1:27 pm thinking, "Whew, I've got three minutes." Unfortunately the class started at 1 pm. I'd even written 1 pm on my calendar. It was an improvisation class. I've been avoiding improv because as much fun as it can be I've been afraid I can't think quickly enough any more. The truth is - however - that all life is improv. We all make it up as we go along every day. The first day of class was fun and I did fairly well. I was in a class with a lot of people who do this professionally. The second day my first scene went well. It's amazing how long 15 seconds can be. The second scene I couldn't do what I was supposed to do - in the middle of making up a scene I was supposed to add in movements that I had been given every time he said "Change.". The teacher was on me. I kept trying and trying and not getting it. It went on and on and on. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes. During the break I explained to him that I have a hard time remembering other people's things which is why I tell stories - don't have to remember lines - it's my story! He said he didn't need a break - so I spent the break in front of the class telling a story and trying to add in one movement (putting my hands on my cheeks and opening my mouth in surprise like the kid in Home Alone) when he said "Change.". Sometimes I could do it. Sometimes I still messed up.
I thought about going home. I felt like a little kid. I didn't. I stayed. The next 15 second scene was okay but not wonderful. So...I was sitting in my chair trying to think of a very clever funny line for the last scene which was to be made up of 15 seconds moments - but last 10 minutes. I would say this line, it would drive the scene and everyone would laugh and think I was terrific. This time he cast the scenes. He didn't choose me. At the very end there were four people left. He chose three people and said he would put me in the last scene with two people that had done it already. I felt like a little kid not being picked for a team. It wasn't until I got home that I realized he wasn't punishing me - he wanted me to have the best experience possible.
When other people were doing scenes he made my plan impossible. He said, "No plot." "Dare to be boring." Before I went he gave me permision to make mistakes, to stall, to fail. What he had been emphasizing the whole time was to see, hear, connect, and be present. Without my clever line I had to get out of my head. I looked at the two women who were my partners. I had to be totally present and let things unfold naturally. One of the rules of improv is to agree instead of doing conflict. For example, if I say I'm an astronaut the other person doesn't say - No, you're a doctor. One woman said as a line, "You must be courageous to wear such ugly shoes. No one else would wear them." Instead of being my normal snarky self I looked for a place to agree. I said, "I'm a courageous person. I have a lot of courage. Let me write that down." This beautiful character evolved out of nothing but my just sitting there, being connected by watching and listening and reacting - then saying what came to me without thinking ahead.
I showed up. When things got tough, I stayed. I got it. I left feeling proud of myself. I also left with a new idea. Life itself is made up of 15 second scenes. Every moment of every day I have choices. I can make a move that changes my landscape or my feelings. It might be as simple as sitting in a different room. It might be big, like going out when I feel like staying in. I can zigzag all I want. I can stop what I am doing and do something else. I know we have responsibilities. A lot of us have to work, and we have to pay bills etc... but I learned this weekend how often in the course of one day I can do something different, think something different. I haven't tried it out yet - but I am often uncomfortale with people I don't know. What if I was listening, watching and reacting - thinking about them instead of being in my head? What if when I'm walking down the street instead of thinking how much I miss Artie I watch and listen to what is happening all around me?
Not that I've got it now. I still spent too much time in bed this morning and had one thing after another that didn't work the way it was supposed too. However, I kept going. What's my choice now? What's my choice now? Honestly, in a little bit it's going to be to lie down for a while. That's not a wrong choice. Remember the part where he gave me permision to fail.
The class was such a mirror for me of how to deal with grief. I can't absorb it all at once. 15 seconds at a time - that I can take. I stayed in the class even though I was uncomfortable - like I stay alive even though I'm uncomfortable. I'm making better choices some times - some times I'm giving myself permission to fall apart, lie in bed and talk to Artie, or stare into space. Being late for the class embarrassed me - and then I realized I didn't have to stay embarrassed. I've decided to double check things since I know I'm not thinking clearly.
Tomorrow morning when I wake up I'm going to try to zig instead of my usual zag. Set the alarm and actually get up. I feel rushed a lot because if I get up late I don't have time to do everything I want to. This living without Artie - something new to learn every day. It's so hard to learn these things without him to help me. I learned so much from him. I also enjoyed sharing things with him. Now I share them with you.
Something to think about - or stop thinking about. Not every 15 seconds - but the small choices we can make that will change our landscape - what we see - how we feel. The teacher also said before he does a solo show he says - "I'm going to make mistakes. That's okay." He said he gets that conversation out of the way before the show so when it's over he doesn't have to waste time criticizing himself. That was another interesting - freeing idea. Every morning saying - today I am going to be imperfect. Hooray for me not doing it right. Then, at the end of the day I can think about the things I have done not the things I haven't. Sometimes it's my old thing - it's a bad old sad old day but do one thing today that I can say - THAT was a good thing for me.
Okay. Time for dinner and then the exciting job of cleaning up. I don't know, being positive always makes me laugh after a while! I am getting a massage tonight. That will be good.
Try doing something different just for 15 seconds - or thinking something different just for fifteen seconds. See how it feels. Something just for you. You deserve it. Especially now. xo
Your Artie, and my Rich, died on the same day, same year. In a way, I'm glad to hear your brain is still mashed, because mine is. And I'm glad to hear you still miss him, because I do.