For five years, I was fine without theatre. I was a mommy. I didn't see how I could do both. Yes, I was obsessive, overzealous, and intense, but if I was just going to be a mommy, I was going to be a great one. I compared myself to only the best and judged those who (kind of like me, but I was in denial) couldn't compete with the crafty, creative, decorating, foodie, bread-baking, tomato-growing, homeschooling moms of the year; you know, the moms who had their ass hanging out most of the time (like, well, me.) I intended to be that woman who feels most alive at the sewing machine or in the garden or by the stove. Of course I don't know how you make yourself feel alive, or anything else for that matter.
I have a friend from Bosnia who has three children and the most spare, precise, peaceful, orderly home you've ever seen unless maybe you're from Bosnia. You can't imagine how mortifying it was to have her babies crawl on my floor and come up with dirty knees be-furred with dog hair. She would never live with a dog. (For one thing, she has an idea that ingesting animal hair is potentially fatal. I need to find out more about that.) Then there's my BabyWise neatfreak gym-rat girlfriend, on top of her life, everything in its place. And here I come driving up in a car with half a foot of detritus on all the floor boards. She would never. Never. Then there is my friend who seems perfectly at ease as a mom. She never takes a break. She doesn't seem to want to be or do anything else, thriving on Picture People photo shoots, shopping for the next size up in shoes, and planning her kids birthday parties. These were my ideal mothers, and you can imagine how I measured up. I convinced myself everything was going swimmingly, but I had my misgivings.
Now, I'm a good cook. I like the idea of growing some of our own food. I probably will homeschool with the help of a co-op of some kind. But do I feel most alive in the kitchen? I feel happy. I feel God's pleasure (and my family's.) I like making good food. But I do not find my ultimate creative fulfillment at the stove. At the sewing machine? Definitely not, though I know how to operate it when I need to. (Though, honestly, when do you actually need to operate a sewing machine?) Having and holding babies? I do feel very alive doing that. There is great joy in the constant daily grind - it is formative, like daily prayers, like saying the rosary. And this womb of home is where I have found love and meaning in a deeper, more fulfilling, more nourishing way than anywhere in my life before. I wouldn't negate any of it, or abandon it, or diminish it. But is there more to me? Yeah, I think there is. Why would I even try to deny it?
Steven started going to our church two years ago, and I feel like maybe he was sent just to fetch me. Steven's a bona fide professional theater actor. After services, we would get to talking, and I started to feel that old, stirred-up feeling. I could hardly cope with it. So I went to see a play he was in, but I felt even more stirred up. So I went to see another play and took Shep. Then we saw a few more. Afterwards, Shep would stand back a little, watching me talk with the actors. He saw the way I was: stoked, like he hasn't seen me in awhile.
Shep's the one who said, in one of these post-show conversations, to one of my actor friends, "I think she's going to have to do this again." I heard that as the tremendously generous gift it was; we do have three children, you know, ages five, three, and one, and someone was going to have to pick up the slack. He was smiling when he said it. Maybe he's missed seeing my glory. It must be hard to love an artist; their hearts don't stay in their bounds. I was trying to. But maybe I was trying to rewrite my bounds instead of filling the ones I was given.
On August 23, I went back to the theater after a five-year absence. Seven days ago, we closed the show, and I haven't yet quite come back down to earth. Oh theater....I love you. There, I said it. I can't denigrate your part in my life anymore. I've always had a conflict between my good girl self and my wild parts. Maybe because it feels so dangerous to be so alive. But after being gone and coming back, I know more than ever, whether I'm great at it or just good, I was made to do it, and I don't think I can walk away again.