I used to work on costuming for the theater department at our local high school. The program is a well-respected one that consistently produces high caliber productions, and designing and producing the costumes was a delightful creative outlet for me for a time. As satisfying as the endeavor was, the biggest take-away for me from the experience had nothing to do with the costumes and everything to do with the comportment of our fearless leader, department head Kathleen Woods. I marveled at how, even as we entered into the inevitable days-before-opening, show-must-go-on craze, she maintained a serene presence, always calm and radiating assurance: none of the fabled tantrums that creative types are prone to having, never even a cross or unkind word — just the picture of grace under pressure.
I asked Kathleen once about her apparently endless reserves of patience with the antics of her youthful charges, her calm determination to meet obstacles with both a smile and a willingness to move on — her seemingly unflappable mien. I don’t remember the exact words of her answer to my query, but I do remember that she indicated that she makes a deliberate choice to be graceful in her response to stress. She chooses an attitude of positivity and productivity in order that the process will continue to move forward in the most pleasant and satisfying way for all involved.
My friend Carrie is ‘famous’ for telling her son when he hits a bump in the road, “You can have a fit or make a plan.” She is of course, advocating for the latter, but the truth of the matter is we always have a choice: we can look for someone to blame, complain of ill-treatment, wallow in our misery – or we can accept that ‘it is what it is’ and move on. Fussing and fuming rarely change the outcome for the better, and in fact can cause more damage to a situation in the long run; a little faith that all will come right in the end if we can remain positive quite likely serves us better. But the choice remains: tantrum or calm smile.
We are nearing the ‘Curtain up’ phase of the project (a hopeful move-in date is nigh) and the pressure is on to bring the production up to snuff (conditions set by the Building Department must be met before we may occupy the house). The work has been outlined appropriately, subs set into the schedule, inspections added to the calendar – and then the mason’s grandfather passes away, the electrician’s van breaks down, the finish carpenter is ill with food poisoning, and all the good intentions in the world won’t provide shelter for us once our tenancy in our temporary digs is up at the end of the month. Perhaps only the ghost light will shine in the theater on what was to have been Opening Night . . .
Our landlord’s emails are tagged with the following quote:
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass,
it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
At this point, I’m dancing as fast as I’m able, and I can only hope it may be noted when all is said and done that by and large my ‘moves’ were graceful!