Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Maybe Sleep Just A Little More

For my birthday last month I took myself out to a show. It's a site specific version of Macbeth called Sleep No More. It's been running for several years and from the moment it opened people have told me I should go and that I would love it.

I believed them! I kept meaning to go but it's interactive and didn't that mean that I should get a group to go with me but something so expensive who would I ask and organizing it and it's really better for me to go on nights where I don't have to get up in the morning...

It felt like a lot of decisions.

My boss had given me 2 theatre tickets of my own choosing for my Christmas present in 2016. I saw Natasha and Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 during my annual July staycation and meant to see another show lickety split but dog training ramped way up right around then and things got nutty and again what an embarrassment of riches to be able to choose any show in NYC to go see. Any show at all. Which one?

Which means that finally late in December I convinced myself to take a leap and bought 1 ticket in the mid-range for Sleep No More for a Monday night in January, the night before I turned 49. It felt great from the moment I decided to go.

The holiday season always feels fraught with so many decisions. I tend to feel like I'm the one steering the ship. Mind you, I'm actually only steering my own ship but the harbor is crowded that time of year so any one person's routing decisions have that famous, fabled ripple effect.

Chem E and I spent a few months mulling and guessing and supposing and finally deciding how we might do things differently when we traveled north this year based on the minimal rocking of other boats. We planned to stay in MA together. She'd meet me there. I'd do much of the driving. It would have me well-placed to do some driving for my parents, too. We got it all in place and then I finally told my parents and there was uproar.

They'd heard that Christmas Eve was going to be in MA instead of ME. I hadn't heard. Who was right? What to do? So we tracked down all that info and it turned out my plan suddenly included a lot less driving. So while I never love change this change worked out pretty damn nicely for me.

The night before I was to travel Chem E called completely done in. Her flight was delayed and delayed and then canceled and the change options were terrible and what to do? She couldn't decide and every time she chose something that path would suddenly be closed, too. I threw out some possible solutions, maybe cracked open the idea box a little, but I was working that day so I had to leave her to it. By the time I finished with clients she had managed to implement our plan of last resort (which will likely become our plan of first resort in years to come).

The next morning my sainted neighbor drove me to the car rental place and parked around the corner, hiding my dog from the rental people. Once I transferred luggage and dog into my car I drove across the street to the airport and picked up Chem E from her flight and together north we rode. It couldn't have been better if we'd planned it that way!

The weather was bad that day but we got where we were going and we were together. The weather was great the next day and all our celebrations were divine. The weather was horrendous on Christmas Day and we adjusted and I drove alone (plus Ed) in some of the worst conditions I've navigated in many years to get to NH and hang with Mama Kizz. It all worked! All of those decisions made for a successful trip.

Every year as the calendar flips over I hit the skids a little. There's a lot of mental and emotional labor to the holidays and the travel. Then it's time for back to work but my birthday is right around the corner and I always feel a bit like I get a pass until I'm another year older. I get up and I do the things I need to do - walk the dog, see the clients, write the emails, go to the office, check in with the friends - but any sort of forward motion is gone. The dishes go undone, the floors unwashed, the meals are ordered not made. Bare minimum maintenance is observed.

Going to see Sleep No More was a micro version of that skid, in a way. I called a pass for that night into the next day for my birthday. I got showered and dressed and I treated myself to a cab when transportation decisions started to mount. Then on to a ridiculously expensive cocktail at a silly lumberjack-themed speakeasy under the same management as the show's venue. I had a slightly fancy ticket which allowed me free coat check for the show and a reserved table in the lounge. I was treated like royalty. A VIP concierge seated me and talked me through how the evening would go and told me I could jump ahead of the line.

The show takes place over a four story building and audience members are free to roam the entire space for the entire evening. No one tells you where to go, you choose. No one tells you what might be happening where. There's no map or posted timeline. It's all your instinct, your decision, your adventure. They give you a speech to explain this before you're unleashed into the performance space and the final direction is, "Fortune favors the bold."

It's thrilling to have all that freedom. It's also a little alarming to a completionist like myself. How would I possibly see it all? I wouldn't. What would I miss? There's no way to tell!

It's a lot like being an adult.

This year I hit the aforementioned skids pretty hard. I had so much work, which is exciting and delightful. The co-op is replacing our windows so I had to prepare for that which meant moving all my furniture and making a huge mess. My end of year experience at the office was...not ideal. I was still mulling it over and thinking about what choices I might make for that job. Now that I'm, at least partially, self-employed I should really get my taxes together sooner. There was so much to do, so many things that needed to be decided.

I could just wait until after my birthday, though, couldn't I?

The floors got filthier. I ordered in food and did not even bother to get groceries. Friends asked to get together and I put them off by a week, then a month. Clothes got washed but sheets did not. The floors got even filthier. I knew it was happening and I knew that it was time to turn the ship around just maybe next week. Not right now. I'd made enough decisions for right now.

At the beginning of the show I was energized. I roared up 3 flights of stairs in my clunky winter boots and prowled each floor. I stayed for some moments of performance. I even stayed after a couple of them. I tried to get the lay of the visual land. (In retrospect I think that getting the lay of the aural land would have been more informative.)

Once I'd been through it all one time I tried to go back and find places that I'd enjoyed. I found myself oddly wrapping around several times to rooms I hadn't enjoyed. Weird floor textures and too much stage fog got to me. At any moment something could happen. Anything could happen. But where? I didn't want to miss it!

About 90 minutes in according to my Fitbit I gave myself the luxury of a break. I knowingly risked missing something in order to go to the bathroom. I even considered stopping at my reserved table for a drink. My own personal intermission. If you know me you know that even considering these things was revolutionary.

As I bombed through the lounge to the restroom I saw a couple of other patrons making that choice. They were checking their phones and resting their bones. Once I'd peed, though, I didn't want to miss any more. I definitely didn't want to check my phone in the middle of this experience.

Back in I plunged! I saw some more amazing things. I saw characters I hadn't seen before. I saw evidence of scenes that had happened without me. I made peace with it over and over. I kept moving. Things were getting crowded and, whereas in the beginning it felt right to move away from the crowd, now I felt like they might know something I didn't. I made middle of the road decisions trying not to stay stuck in a clump of people but to follow before or behind them to see what attracted their attention and decide from there.

My Fitbit, which I use as a watch, ran out of juice so I had no idea how much time was left.

I couldn't pay attention to anything too long. Any time I stood still I felt like I should be somewhere else. I wanted to go sit and have a drink. I never leave before the end of a show, though. As I rolled from room to room and floor to floor I debated the relative merits of staying and going rather than really taking in what I was seeing.

Eventually I wound up in what I think is the Macbeths' bedroom. It's huge. Even when the crowd showed up, trailing a couple of nurses, there was plenty of room. I could be on the outskirts of the group and still not be jostled. The nurses cleaned up the room. They folded letters and stacked them. They straightened up towels. They made the bed. Then they sat quietly for a minute or two. And we stood with them. I didn't feel compelled, or perhaps not able, to choose to go elsewhere.

Then the nurses stood up. As the younger one passed me, where I was leaning against a column, she took my hand. I tried to return the exact pressure and emotion she was giving me. She swept me away with her. She gently and firmly moved people out of our way. She knew where to go and she took me there. I wondered when she'd leave me and concentrated on matching her pace.

She led me to a balcony above a giant room. She carefully directed a couple of other patrons out of our way and we stood in a perfect spot to view the scene below.

I didn't let go of her hand.

She didn't let go of mine.

When the climactic scene was finished she led me again. She cleared our path again. She took me out to the lobby, removed my mask, looked me in the eye, and said goodnight. And I thanked her. I did it quietly but I wanted to say it louder and about 12 more times. I was so relieved by her taking charge. I had decision fatigue. I needed help and she found me. Once she'd found me she kept me until everything was safely finished. She made sure I didn't miss the most important part.

It was exactly the birthday present I needed.

I'm off the skids now. I didn't go home from that show and hop off them and get back to doing the things that adults are supposed to do, of course. That's not how it works. I think that was a turning point, though.

That actress probably has no idea.


  1. When I read your blog, I SO wish I lived in NY! Don't think me weird for saying this to someone I don't know at all, but you seem like someone I'd love to hang out with, to catch a show, to share a drink. I wish you were still writing your other blog - Tell Kizz. But I'm just happy you're back here at least. I love your writing style and the tales of your life. Thank you for that.

  2. I've missed your writing. And I totally feel like Jules above does!

  3. Hello, sweetheart; I've missed your face, and your voice.

  4. It's nice to see you writing again.

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