The Balance

Cold rain fell from the sky as I navigated the dark road home. I felt mostly alone, though city lights and distant cars passed in a blur through my peripheral vision.

“Maybe it’s too much” I thought.

I have not had an evening at home since Saturday, and will not have one again until next Sunday. That’s over a week of missing bath time splashes and stories with my son. A week of missing night-time cuddles and sleepy prayers. One of these weeks that is so busy and moves so quickly that you might just miss it.

I am in an opera. Just writing that sentence is amazing to me. It’s new and familiar at once to have performance take a prominent place in my life again. Our performance is this weekend, so this week is tech week; a week of run-throughs and dress rehearsals and polishing.

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I had pursued this when I was younger; if I had made performance my profession. But then I remember that there’s no point in looking back when the only accessible direction is forward.

I love my job as a stay at home mommy but there is something magically intoxicating to me about being able to perform. I wonder if I can pull off doing both.

Is it too much to miss the night-time cuddles? Is it too much to spread myself out in these diverse roles; the stay at home mommy, the Parent Council Chair, the writer, the performer?

Sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s all exactly what I need it to be.

This week’s too much will be evened out by some week’s not enough.

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I arrived home just before midnight to a quiet house lit only by the lone light from our entry table lamp and a note:

I smiled and ate a midnight dinner in the quiet. This balance isn’t too much. It’s just right.

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I woke up this morning to rain, ice, and thundersnow. “Look Mommy! It’s snowing!”

My son and I snuggled up in the big bed and looked at as we watched the rain turn into snow and accumulate on the branches just outside the window.

Texts and emails came in slowly. School is closed. Rehearsal is cancelled. Take caution while driving or stay at home.

The day was cancelled. In the midst of busy there would be an entire day of home.

I smiled again, because this reprieve in the midst of juggling chaos was exactly what I needed.

My son and I are embracing a day of pajamas, movies, and snow watching as we sit curled up on the couch downstairs.

And at once my world is right.

“happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot”

~ Aristotle, philosopher

Finding Home Through Performance

The thing about performing, is that it’s intense, and hard, and requires you to use parts of yourself that you don’t always use on a daily basis. It requires dedication and passion and in the midst of it, you form friendships and bonds. Mostly because you are all together for hours on end preparing a show, but also because you have the time to really get to know the hearts of the people you perform with.

I used to perform all the time, and I really used to think that it was what I wanted to do professionally. (I mean, I kinda would still love to, but I think that ship may have sailed.)

But until this show, I had not performed in years. I left that part of myself when I found out I was pregnant, and was so lost in a world of baby and depression that I forgot a small bit of who I was.

After 18 shows and over 20,000 people coming to see all of our performances, we closed on Sunday night. I have been away from the blogging world because, quite frankly, I am exhausted.

But exhausted in a good way. In the way where you feel accomplished. In the way when you feel fulfilled.

This performance experience was especially a blessing. It was through a church. Every year they write their own script and compose their own music to put together a Broadway style Christmas production, complete with high tech lighting and effects, mics and set design, dancing, singing, acting, and even a live camel, flying angels, and a real baby Jesus.

Usually, performance, although fun and rewarding, can be very competitive and harsh. This world of performance was very nurturing  It was a world where everyone mattered and lifted you up at every turn. It was refreshing and inspiring and I know I have filled this blog with performance stories, but the truth is, this performance saved me.

I have been floundering for a long time, really ever since the birth of my son. Writing this blog has helped bring me back to myself.  Being able to perform again reminded me that there is life after children, and that I am still who I always was. Funny, I needed 3 years and a lead in a show to convince myself of that.

So, on the last day of the show, at our cast meeting the director asked if anyone would like to speak. I stood up and addressed the 200 person cast with this,

“In September, I was just a girl, who came to an audition with red high heels. Then I became lucky enough to get a part in this show. I have heard so many stories about the ministry that we want this show to be to the audience, but I want you all to know what a ministry it has been to me. The kindness and generosity of all the people I have met here has been amazing and I have been truly honored to be a part of it. And now, for the first time in a long time, I have a church home. That would not have been possible without GCN. So I just want to thank all of you for that.”

This nurturing environment lifted me with applause and their tears met my own as I ruined my stage makeup with tears rolling down my face.

Because you see, to finally find a home and pieces of yourself, can be very very emotional.

 

 

The Transformation

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It’s amazing the transformation that can occurimage

When you have a lot of make up

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Some false eyelashes,

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and some bright red lips.

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The look you can create when you allow yourself to fall into another world.

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A world of performance.

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For the Broadway style production I’m in, I play a lead role of a 1920’s flapper named Lillian, who is blonde, sassy, and so much fun.

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She is not me at all, but I am honored to bring the character to life.

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I am drawn to performance for so many reasons, but I know that the chance to play dress up and create life to another person is a huge part of the allure. The transformation from boring Mommy to fun flapper was something I was thrilled to be a part of.  It’s amazing what can happen when we allow ourselves to be open to a world besides our own.

Dress Rehearsal

I was sick to my stomach nervous all day.

Could not eat, could not sleep, and felt nauseous.

Of course the not sleeping part could have to do with a certain three-year old that lives here, but I digress.

Last night was dress rehearsal for our show.

Except it was really like opening night, because the audience was almost full with people coming for a preview and the show directors stressed the importance of the evening so much that I just couldn’t handle it.

I used to perform all the time. I used to be fairly good at it. I used to think I would one day do it professionally.

But I got married and had a baby instead, and left those dreams by the way side…I thought.

When this opportunity approached, I took a chance and auditioned, and got a lead role.

We have rehearsed for two months, and I know my scenes.

But yesterday I just wasn’t ready.

My understudy is amazing and I truly just wanted her to do the show. She’s so talented.

Queasy stomach and near tears I did the show….and I survived it!

I knew all my lines! I knew the dance moves! I didn’t mess up and I…..had fun!

I felt like myself again.

And so tonight, as we approach the opening of our 18 show run, I am still a little bit nervous. But I also know that this is exactly where I am meant to be right now. And for that, I am eternally thankful.

I just have to share this picture with you; this is me performing at dress rehearsal last night. If you want to see the show through pictures, check out this photo gallery from the amazing photographer nice enough to document the show for us last night.

The Exhausting Part

You know how my blog is called Elated Exhaustion?

I am in the exhaustion part.

My in laws got here Saturday the 18th. Some of them left the Friday after Thanksgiving, but my mother in law is still here.

We are also in the most difficult week for a show production. It’s tech week, the time when you so run-throughs of the show in full costume and make up, with your mic, working the transitions and props and costume and set changes. It’s the time for the orchestra to practice and for the crew to get the lighting and mic cues. It’s a time when you are at rehearsal for 10 to 12 hours at a time, polishing and tweeking and pulling everything together.

It is magical and exciting and nerve wracking and exhausting all at the same time.

I am so honored to be a part of it, but oh my goodness am I tired.

Between the demands of day long rehearsals, hosting my mother in law, meeting the demands of a three year old and still doing duties as a Parent Council Chair at my son’s school, and trying (but failing) to keep up with NaBloPoMo, I think I have reached my limit. And of course, the hubs is on nights.

So today, after I dropped my son off at school, instead of accomplishing anything on my to do list, and oh my goodness there is so, so much, I chose sleep.

Because sometimes life is elating. But right now, I think it’s just plain exhausting.

(Psst – Here is a sneak peek of my character in the show. More pics to come!)

Me, all dressed up for the Broadway style Christmas Production I am in. My character is named Lillian, and I am a 1920s flapper.

 

 

The Recording Studio

Right outside of the recording studio, where they mix the sound.

The Recording Studio

sheet music and the microphone

In the recording studio, getting ready to sing.

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you realized that all your dreams are coming true?

Not the way you imagined they would. Not the way you planned.

But they are?

I had that tonight.

Once upon a time I wanted to be a stay at home mommy to four little ones, married and living in a beautiful house.

(Really, I did.)

And now I get to stay home every day with my one sweet boy, drowning in dishes and laundry and just cherishing my one, because I really don’t think there will ever be more than him. It’s nothing like I imagined, but it’s wonderful.

Once upon a time I wanted to be a writer.

(I was never sure of what.)

And now I am the owner of this little blogging space here, that not many people read but that I am immensely proud of anyway.

Once upon a time I wanted to be on Broadway.

(I had big dreams.)

And I am getting ready to perform in a Broadway-like show for Christmas, complete with costumes and big song and dance numbers and make up and late night rehearsals. Who knew my Broadway wouldn’t be in New York, but just a bit more south in Virginia?

Once upon a time I wanted to be a famous singer.

(My dreams were even bigger.)

And tonight, I got to record a song for the upcoming show in the recording studio. We are doing a total of 18 shows, so they pre-record some of the tracks for use in the smaller shows and to sell CDs of after performances. I’m nowhere near famous but I can not tell you how excited I was to have this opportunity. Really, how cool is it to lay down a track in a recording studio?

Once upon a time I was just a mom with a blog doing a Christmas show, who realized that she has everything she ever wanted, even if it’s nothing like the way she imagined.

 

Finding My Voice

Last night, I was stuck in a downward spiral.

I was trying to coordinate holiday plans with family that lives far away, and heard news of a trip to Paris and some pregnancies. I started to go down the path one should never go down; a path of self-depreciation.

We have no trips to Paris on our schedule. Whenever we have free vacation time we use it to go visit relatives. There is no exciting baby news here. Our lives are inundated with work, running a household, and taking care of a toddler.  There are no major accomplishments or life changes to celebrate here. Basically, it is just plain boring.

As I spiraled into a negative thinking pattern that involved questioning my worth and my path in life and wondering what I would ever amount to, I packed my son’s bag. I was getting ready to take him to childcare so I could attend a rehearsal for my lead role in a Christmas production.

After getting my son settled, I walked into the rehearsal area and busied myself with rehearsing lines.

After a few minutes, one of the older men in the production approached me and asked my name, and followed up by saying, “I didn’t realize that was your real voice.”

So here’s the thing if you haven’t met me in real life…I have kind of a unique voice. One that has been made fun of, drives comments from cashiers at check out lanes, and sometimes even receives a compliment. But it is noticeably a different thing. And it lands me lead roles on the stage.

So sometime towards the beginning of rehearsals in October, this older gentleman had complimented me on my theatrical voice. Last night when he approached me, he said he didn’t realize that was actually my voice. I responded by saying, “This character isn’t me, but, yes, it is my natural voice.”

And then the most amazing thing happened.

This man stood there and inspired me. He asked if I had ever considered performing professionally.

“Well, yes, that’s what I always wanted to do. I was even a voice major in college and I used to perform a lot in community theater. But then, you know, I got married and had a baby, so now I’m just a mom. This Christmas show is just for fun.”

He stopped me from my spiraling as he said, “I’m not saying this to be nice, I’m saying this to be true; you are very talented. You have a gift. God gave you that. Is this something you want to do?”

“Well, yes, it’s always something I’ve loved doing, but you know, now I’m just a mom and…”

“No, it doesn’t matter what anyone says. If this is something you want to do, you need to do it. If your husband loves you, he will support you. This show isn’t just for fun. This show is your starting point.”

He continued to tell me about how much he enjoys watching me perform. How unique my voice is.  How he loves this character I’m bringing to life. He quoted scripture to me. He made me cry.

And then he said, “This is my mission. Because I was meant to talk to you tonight. And you are meant to do something great.”

As I wiped tears away from my eyes, I said, “Thank you. That is something I really needed to hear tonight.”

He left with a smile and a “See you on stage.”

*****

 It’s a prayer I say often, “Dear God, You gave me a voice. Please show me how to use it.”

And then it was answered with a speech from a man at rehearsal and an email about a new writing opportunity…both on the same day. (I’m telling you, fives are significant!) (And I can’t wait to tell you about the new writing opportunity..more news on that soon.)

 *****

Late last night, after my son and I returned home safely from rehearsal and my husband got home from his 12 hour shift, I began to recount my encounter to my husband as we stood in the kitchen, him eating leftovers and me sipping a cup of hot tea. Our toddler was eating a late night snack near by and we were all winding down to head to long-awaited bed.

“I guess I just thought that part of my life was over, you know? I mean I made a choice between pursuing performance or getting married and having a family. And now I’m just a wife and a mom and this show was just something to do. But tonight, this man inspired me. He reminded me that maybe I could be more than that. People used to say things like that to me all the time, but no one has said anything like that to me in a long time. I don’t know, it just really meant a lot for him to say that. And then there’s this writing opportunity  That’s one of the reasons I started blogging  right?  To become open to possibilities.  Maybe I could still be somebody.”

At this point, somehow my husband and I had wandered over to the refrigerator (I tend to pace when I talk.) My husband hugged me and gave me a kiss as he said “Of course you’re somebody.”

And then, on perfect cue, the cereal boxes on top of the fridge fell down and hit me on the head, spewing a few Apple Jacks and Frosted Flakes around.

My husband, toddler and I all erupted into hysterical laughter that was just as much from the humor of falling cereal as it was from exhaustion before finally heading upstairs to bed.

Maybe there’s a greater purpose for me somewhere out there. Maybe I can use my voice for writing and performing in some capacity. But at the end of the day I will always be a Mommy, finding humor in spilled cereal and beauty in slobbery kisses.

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Speaking of using your voice, today is election day! I was thrilled to take my son to vote today and loved how proud he was to participate. Did you use your voice and vote?

We voted! Presidential Election 2012

 

 

Familiar Roles

This feels familiar, as though I’m tracing my footsteps, falling back into a place I’ve known in the past but haven’t visited in a while.

I have become rusty at being in the real world, because as  time passed and seasons changed, my son and I have been creating our own.

It has been a dance of intensity and beauty and I know that we are still only at the beginning.

But the separation is slowly happening. I know we are both finally ready.

As my son expands his world into preschool and friends and independent play, I dust off my “grown up shoes” and try to remember how to walk in them.

This year, I am the Parent Council Chair at my son’s preschool. And my goodness gracious, to those of you that told me to run away when this was offered to me last spring, I owe you a big apology because I really should’ve listened. This job is more of an undertaking than I realized. I had told myself I would not get caught up in it, but as I become more involved and aware of the behind-the-scene action at the school, the more I want to be a part of it. I may be new and I may not want to spend the next year of my life stressed out with this work, but I think I really have a chance to make a difference here. I think this position was put in my path for a reason, and as much work as it is going to be, I also think it’s a blessing. I have done leadership roles before; I have played this part of organizer, brainstormer, care-a-little-too-mucher. I know I can do it again.

I also took a chance this year. A chance I have not dared to take in a long time. I auditioned for a big Christmas production put on by a local church. Most churches do Christmas productions, but apparently this production runs like a Broadway musical. It is an original script each year and the story is told through song, dance, and theater drama. Over 200 people auditioned. Auditions involved dance, vocal, and dramatic. Only 50 people were invited to call backs and 6 women were being considered for the female lead. So here is my big news: I got the lead! Performance used to be a huge part of my life, but I have not performed since 2008, right before I found out I was pregnant.  My skills are a bit rusty, but I am oh-so-ready to bring performance back into my life. There will be costumes, there will be lights, there will be make-up, there will be me trying to learn choreography and lines…and there will be that little piece of my soul that gets fulfilled by being on stage.

I am not sure how all of these pieces will fit back together as I balance motherhood with bits of my previous self, but I know that they will. I am also fighting my own guilt with the fact that I have chosen these roles rather than choosing to return to work. I try to get my Parent Council work done while Noah is in school and all show rehearsals will be at night. These two new roles, though not paid, will still allow me a lot of time with my son. For now, I have decided to feed my soul rather than my bank account.

So as I re-introduce myself to the world of paperwork and pull my dance shoes out of the back of the closet, I also prepare for the beginning of what’s next and pray for guidance into this next round of “new normal.”

(If you will be in the Richmond area around Christmas and are at all interested in attending these performances, you can visit this site for more details. http://gloriouschristmasnights.com/)