You know when you have those moments of existential realization, when suddenly you’re outside of your daily routine and aware of a bigger picture?
I suppose some people never have those moments. Other people probably live in them all the time. For me, they come as unexpected flashes, and then dissipate to a memory and a slightly-altered view of the world.
Once years ago, I was sitting on our front porch in El Paso, TX, on the night of a full lunar eclipse. The kids were young, and in bed, and my husband was away with the military, so I was alone, intending to experience a cool astronomical event before heading to bed.
But suddenly, as I watched the moon become darker, engulfed in cover, I had this startling realization: I was watching the shadow of the EARTH overtake the MOON. The shadow of the entire planet, upon which I was sitting, creeping slowly over another planetary body, and all in front of my eyes. I was frozen, enthralled, and somehow a bit changed.
There are similar moments, not as startling, which come and go. When you drive past apartment buildings, hundreds upon hundreds of apartment buildings, and you realize a separate drama plays out in each one, every day.
We’re all living our own plays, each of us holding the starring role, while billions of other plays are being performed alongside us. Some plays sell more tickets (celebrity plays are like the performance artists who live in the mall behind glass walls for a month; never, really, away from the eyes of the audience), some plays are quiet and unnoticed, and the curtain falls with no fanfare (the homeless vet who dies of hypothermia buried in blankets on a nameless street), but they are all the same, deep down, even as they’re different on the surface.
So last night, getting ready for bed, I had this thought once again. This time was a form of the realization that every person we see, every ‘person-in-the-news’, every co-worker, every stranger at Walmart we encounter, has a home, a routine. They let their dogs out, or change the kitty litter, or brush their teeth. They put on pajamas, pull the bottom sheet back onto the mattress (because it just won’t stay!), and turn off the light before settling in to sleep.
I suppose some people have a routine which pays someone else to do all of that – do you imagine Donald Trump tightens his own sheets, or has a maid make his bed every day? Does he put on his own toupee in the morning, or does someone come and style him? We envy the rich (well, some of us do; money is not where my dreams lay), but how much of life is lost if you don’t fully participate in your own play? How foreign would it be to watch your life be conducted by paid assistants?
I recently read a post about making your vacation your everyday life – enjoy travels, certainly, but don’t escape from life two weeks a year; instead, build a life that you don’t want to escape from. Live your play, fully. It’s the Buddhist concept, that everything you do, do thoughtfully, mindfully.
I believe (?) it was Thich Nhat Hanh who wrote about opening doors and running through them willy-nilly as a child, always moving to the next task, until his master taught him to be mindful of his every action, even including the grasping and turning of a door handle.
Live your play today. Even if you have no audience, if you’re a quiet player on a quiet stage, be mindful of your cues, your stage, your lines. Appreciate the craftsmanship and design that went into your set. Rewrite your play, if need be, to make it more interesting, more of a comedy, maybe, or more of a romance, or a great travelogue. Appreciate the plays of others that you encounter, the brief glimpses you are privileged to watch. Learn from them. “Oh, that’s a good line,” or “What stage presence!”
You are the author of today’s script. Write it well.