Getting to (W)hole Part II: The Shoe Falls

The years that followed moved between triumph and tenuousness like the tide: constant and somewhat soothing in its constancy. The devil I knew was the one I knew well. I […]

October 22, 2010 // Tracy Shaffer // No Comments //

The years that followed moved between triumph and tenuousness like the tide: constant and somewhat soothing in its constancy. The devil I knew was the one I knew well.
I am loyal by nature, a stoic by necessity, in denial as an act of mercy; traits which have kept me alive and would have been handy as a member of the Donner Party. Thankfully I’ve not been driven to eat my young… yet. But who knows when the shoe drops?
As my husband picked up the pieces, adjusted the meds and found gainful employment, I continued writing, submitting and getting response. We were now in the early single digits, Saints & Hysterics was being produced and (W)hole was being work-shopped for a staged reading at the National New Play Network Showcase. The story was still young, as uncertain of what it was as a teenage girl, but there was a continual stream of interest. Whether they found the concept intriguing or it was the morbid curiosity of watching a train wreck, there was momentum. There were some shamans along the way, each with variations on the same message: “Intriguing the characters are, clarify the plot you must”,
And so I continued, researching quantum physics and color theory, took the scenes out of order, put them back differently, added capers, alien abductions, and a musical number (Bold-faced a lie that is), and took them away, tossing them in the ‘dramatic ARC’ bag as I learned to trust and to listen.
Focusing on the story was a welcome distraction from all that was only held together by duct tape. Late nights at the computer was the place of calm in the tempest, the only place I felt fully alive. As a mother, an understudy, and the wife of a man struggling with sobriety, I was invisible, dutiful and achingly lonely. Like Carla. She sprang forth when I began working as a personal assistant to a friend. Once my student, I was now one of her ‘people’. I was intrigued and mortified by this turn, but the money was good and sorely needed. Alcoholics are not known for their financial savvy, as the disconnected phone and the car missing from the driveway would attest.
Things falling apart, picking up the pieces, shattering and sweeping up after; these were the days of our lives. Struggling to be seen and bursting at the seams, something had to give. It was the acting. The one thing in my life that I’d always held as the sacred expression of my soul no longer had a place. I could not bear the process, of needing to be “picked” in order to create, and that’s what the audition process is really. To be any good at all you have to open up, invest yourself you have to fall in love, and lay yourself bare. And then you have to deal with every manifestation longing that goes with unrequited love. After long walks, streaming tears and railing at god on the Highline Canal, I made the decision to gave it up. (Which is very different from giving up.) At that point, I had no idea who I was;I was letting go of what had defined me for decades. In this act, I learned to trust.
The play was what I had left, and no one had to give me permission to create it. It was the quilt I could stitch together from whatever pieces of myself I had left at the end of the day. It was also the only time I could finish a sentence. There is an exchange in (W)hole between Carla and Ames where Carla says, “You saved my life.” Ames “Yes, and now I’m responsible for it, how does that work? I’ve never understood how that works.” Guess I was talking to myself again. But now I was listening.


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