Late last year, for those of you who have not been following my posts closely, I was in a musical. It was a tiny, precious gem of a musical. It explored the feelings of men who have fought valiantly and were thrown onto a shore, so near yet so far from home. Exiled for 3 years on Guam because they refused to sign the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States. The musical talked about sacrifices that have come to naught. Broken allegiances. Carrying on despite tortuous homesickness because of promises needing to be kept. And at the end of it, bittersweet homecoming.
We ran for a mere 24 performances. And at every performance we had to wrench out our hearts for the audience to see. Squeeze out every drop of grief and longing. Each one of us had to find our personal exiles and work from there. Mine was being away from home for over 7 years. Because I had a dream. To create a masterpiece with a friend. A life’s work. All making it worth to be away from my ageing mother. For each performance, up to twice a day, I had to lay bare every longing, every throbbing nerve, raw, tired, and aching. It was easier at the performances when you had the audience’s applause at the end to tell you that they accepted your gift and it was appreciated. At rehearsals, you went home with those feelings still hanging over you. And notes. Notes on how to improve your performance. It was exhausting. Yet beautiful. Always because you knew it was a gem of a show. When you know something is worth the effort, then all else matters very little.
There is a transitional scene between acts 1 and 2 where we run to the deck of the ship at the news that we’re nearing the harbor. Conceding that the dream of a Great Republic will have to wait, that it will be for other people to make come true, there is just one overriding thought: Home and family. A friend and I were talking a few weeks back about how a common friend lives her life in fear because she doesn’t have her family’s support. Despite her immense talent, she cannot seem to take the steps she needs to get started in her career. We talked about how it really is important to know that your family has your back. It allows you to take risks, calculated or otherwise. It gives you permission to test your courage. It emboldens you to know that there is a place to come back to. People who will take you back when you’re bruised and bleeding from your Quixotic adventures. So in that scene, each of us in a way, were mostly thinking of the same thing. Home and family. These two which allow us these Quixotic adventures in theater. In the arts. These suspect lives where people think we’re all just having fun playing make believe. For that very short span of a few seconds each we have to pour all the longing out. And the immense gratitude. Like letting the dam gates open. Out comes the flood. And for that very short moment you allow yourself to be destroyed. The you have to put yourself together for the end of the show, where you will again be broken whether you like it or not. Broken and raised. Like a seedling coming out of its shell. Dizzy, vulnerable, heavily laden with hope.
And here I find myself. On a ship. Dizzy, vulnerable, heavily laden with hope. It appears that the show was a rehearsal for me. Accepting the fact that a gamble was lost. Maybe not a gamble. An expedition that didn’t yield the discoveries I set out to find. But not without some lovely views along the way. And priceless friendships. Surprising friendships that taught me things I otherwise wouldn’t have learned had I remained in my tiny autonomous world of the arts. And dogs. It is customary for people to chalk things up to experience and wisdom when things don’t go as planned. I look up to find my blackboard all filled up. I’ll have to get started on one of the walls.
Here I sit in a restaurant on a ship. Looking out onto the sea. Thinking of all the things I can now do. First, get back to my writing. A project I have been holding off for years and years. It is time. Next, help my sister build a house for mother. Something we’ve been planning for so long. To make our mother comfortable in her golden years. I can now do that. Next, do more things for conservation, rededicate myself to a cause bigger than myself. Then, find myself a job that will be close to home but I can consider gainful employment.
The future looks bright. I’m sure there will be challenges. But they will be new. And I shall always do my best. Maktub.