The audition room is very warm and has beige carpeting. It smells vaguely like potato chips. The wall I am facing is covered with tall windows, and there is a long table in front of me with four people sitting at it. Their coats are tossed over the chairs, and there are papers stacked in front of each of them. They each have a copy of my headshot and resume. I have 2 minutes to show them that I can act; that they would want to call me back to read for roles in the plays their companies are producing. The monologue begins, and I laugh, and see his face in front of me. I say the words, and they taste like sharp edges on my tongue. I get a twitch under my chin, and my chest tightens. My arms contract, and I throw my eyes towards the windows in front of me, hurling words at the glass like rocks. I can just imagine the cracks forming where they land, and I wish deeply to hear a shattering. I realize I’m flushed and hot, and there is a ringing in my ears. I’m not talking anymore, and I take a breath. The monologue is already over.
“Thank you”, I say.
I turn and walk out of the room, the door making a heavy CLICK behind me. I know the words landed. The heavy thud as they dropped all around my feet was so real to me, I look down to see if there are marks on my shoes.
There are a thousand (more! so many more!) ways to begin. I wonder if there is a bad time to begin. We can choose moments of importance. Of distraction. Of love. But on the subject of beginnings…there is a foggy mess where that rattles in my ears. I can hear the crunching and rustling of words like dead leaves about to crumble and blow away, but I try to hold them delicately so that I don’t lose them. Perhaps it’s not about the beginning, but choosing which is the moment of importance.
Perhaps it was the first time I read that monologue. I had seen the film. Revolutionary Road. Alone, one night, I watched it. Heartbreaking. Beautifully written, acted, directed. I sobbed. I knew this woman. I felt her. I watched the interruption of her career as an actress to move to the suburbs and become a mother and wife. With a heavy heart I watched her get stuck. I recognized a more extreme version of a story I watched all around me a million times with women I knew, and women I didn’t know; women who were interrupted. Who chose but who also felt like they had to choose. In a dark, dark place, I hated that I related to her.
I learn her words and repeat them as if they are my own, and I believe them. Because I know where I meet her in the middle. I meet her in front of my washing machine. I’m taking the heavy wet clothes out and putting them slowly, deliberately, into the dryer. I know in about an hour they will be ready to come out again. They will be put into a basket. I will meet her next to that basket. The clothes dumped onto the bed. The heavy vibration in my ears as the word “drudgery, drudgery, drudgery” repeats and rings over and over again. I will meet her in front of the sink. I am doing the dishes and my hands hurt from the hot water, they have dried so much this winter. The skin is cracked and the water stings. I meet her there and finish scrubbing the pan from dinner. I don’t feel myself. I am not finding the joy here. I meet her here.
I meet her in the theatre, where I try to maintain a sense of ME; where I do my best to do good work, and continue to perform and continue to be inspired by the community of theatre creators and theatre-goers that I adore so fiercely. I meet her on my son’s bed in the evenings, where I get precious and rare time to read and snuggle this incredible little human being, a child who is my favorite human in the universe. And I wonder how soon he will come to resent me for being away so many evenings in the theatre, at rehearsals, at performances. How soon until he learns to hate me for leaving him for six weeks at a time to go perform in a city far away? Will he? Will he understand? Will he know that I am a better human, a better mother because I go? Maybe. Someday. And he hugs me and tells me that he loves me to another galaxy and back, Mama. And sometimes I cry when you go to New York City, Mama, but I know you always come back. And I close his door softly and let the tears come. And I think about how full and amazing my life is. And how much I have. And how I want it all. And how I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
A moment of importance that I choose, a part of the beginning, a moment that feels shiny and hard like glass is the moment I really saw my unhappiness on the wall of our bedroom, scratched there on the blue paint, invisible, but for the vivid picture I had of it, there in the dark. I knew I had to find out what was wrong with me, this terrible flaw, this deep canyon of regret. Regret? No, denial — denial and fear. That’s it. Fear. It is too hard to go on alone; too painful to forfeit our family; impossible to hurt our golden son. Our son! But there it was. My life had stalled. I used the word stuck over and over and over again. My career felt incomplete. My patience was paper thin, ready to disintegrate at the slightest provocation (or at no provocation at all). My son was not getting the best of me. I had no best.
Then I began saying the words. The monologue I had chosen because I knew her. I met her in the middle. I went into a room of strangers and I spoke someone else’s words and I believed them. I felt myself start to fill. I began to step over the edge of the bed, at the shiny glow of dawn, hardly able to wait each morning to begin the rest of my life. I made the decisions that I didn’t have to forfeit anything, especially my own life. The leap into the abyss and the weekly trips to New York City and the newness of life where I felt like I was maybe getting it all, maybe—well, that is where I stand now. I stand in the center of the rest of my life. And I make a little quiet promise not to make any more decisions based in fear. I promise to always work on being a better mom than I am today. I choose a moment of importance, and that’s this moment. Right now. Because it’s the most important one I have. I am here, now. This is what is happening. And my son will see me as a full soul. I will see myself in the city, and in my small town. I will remember how I denied and denied and denied. And how that no longer was possible. I hope he sees how happy I am now that I am making my own way and making my own rules about what it can all look like.
And often it looks like a room with hardwood floors and a wall next to me covered in mirrors. Always a table at one end — sometimes a piano. Sometimes I sing. Sometimes I talk. Sometimes I speak the words that feel pointy like glass and make my eyes prickle. And I see that really anything can happen if you really want it to.
And that is for my son.
And I also promise to pay for therapy.