I rode my bike for about thirty minutes this morning in the Southern Italian Tyrol. At various times, I was climbing, the beautiful Alpine crests looming above me, surrounded by a deep blue sky peppered with clouds. Other times, I was roaring down the slopes, past chateau villages, careening around what had been my pace car a minute before, narrowly avoiding tour busses as they climbed around hairpin turns right in front of me. All courtesy of YouTube and Garmin Virb.

Occasionally while coasting down a hill, I stopped pedaling to sip my Upton tea, freshly brewed on my stove minutes before, while listening to my music courtesy of free Pandora. Sometimes David Byrne is good for my ride, sometimes Benjamin Scheuer.

Last week, during a planned zoom social hour with my good friends, Lynn and Chewy, Lynn mentioned that she’d purchased a used spin bike to have in her apartment. Through much frivolity, she eventually shared the source with me, and I made the purchase that night, taking delivery the next day. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made in the 60 plus days of pandemic isolation.

Yesterday, I sat on the ball chair in my living room from 8:30AM until 8:30PM, in a mixture of meetings and a grading tsunami that threatened to upend me onto the navy blue carpet. Buns of steel, one friend said, but no, unfortunately, even though I’m literally on the ball, it seems to have little slimming effect. The bike, however, is a different story.

Tuesday evening I spent about two hours writing more Letters from the Pandemic to friends. I had just gotten a shipment of cute cards from Paper Source. A bad addiction to stationery stores is one of the unfortunate off-gases of being a stage manager; in fact, it’s actually a prereq to the profession. If you find yourself lingering in the Post-it aisle at Office Depot, or fantasize about a particular pencil, I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably a stage manager or a production manager in the making.

Wednesday evening, I spent an hour or so with some former stage management students, the instigator of which tortures me every week by inviting me to her Fitbit weekly challenge. I love that she asks, but let’s just say I “underperform” in the group. Maybe I’m a little better than Derek F. I know because yesterday my Fitbit signaled me that I was on Derek’s heels. So, Derek, I hope your ball is treating you well, too.

In the course of the catch up with my former stage management students, I was able to glean that through the force of their individual power and perhaps due to the stationery gene they’ve all got, (and I like to think the training they got in our program for stage managers) they’ve become software developers, teachers of stage management, sand artists, house managers of super PACs (Performing Arts Centers), Googlers, moms, and currently temporarily furloughed creatives. I asked one who works in a high position in the cruise industry how she was doing and what the future looks like for her industry. I’ve been thinking about her so much lately. With typical wryness, she shrugged, and said “I’ve learned to control the controllables.” Ahhh. Wise woman. Isn’t that what all of us are coming to grips with?

The desk-riding-length-of-work-day is one area which I’m not really controlling very well. There are endless planning meetings as everyone contrives to come up with at least three different strategies to follow the different scenarios the coming months will bring based on so many forces outside of any of our control. Much about our current scope is unforeseeable. I confessed to my former students that there is something about this planning exercise we are going through that teases and flirts with a logistical and creative brain I always hunger to utilize. This type of problem solving is exactly what we’ve trained for and have been training our students to do. Perhaps not to the extent we’re currently dealing with, but all of it is strengthening those muscles.

On Monday, I did get my COVID-19 test results back (from the previous Wednesday) and they were negative. Between the time of the test and receiving the results I’d been to the grocery store, and on a hike or two over the weekend. I feel fine, I hasten to say, but I offer this as just one of those areas we really can’t control. We can only prepare to take as little risk as possible as we continue to live our lives and hopefully resume our creative work.

Other uncontrollables: my son and his wife suddenly have a baby bear friend who has figured out how to scale the back wall of their yard, and who last night spent several minutes serenely eating mud pies that my granddaughter had been making from mud and…eggs. Oops. This is the second time (that we know of) that the bear has come over the fence. Just a week ago, they had been frequenting an elaborate outdoor movie viewing area. (The humans, not the bears). I bet they’ll be running the sound a little higher over the summer and maybe leaving the popcorn inside. These things they can control.

Some bright spots this week included gathering with about 170 of the other Production Managers from around the country in a Zoom chat about what “the New Normal” looks like. I’m so privileged to be in this group of planners. It lifts my spirits to hear the ideas shared. Some of the exciting things people are doing are related to the creativity and technological challenges of presenting various forms of online content. Last night, I watched Bill Irwin and Christopher Fitzgerald in a delightful ten minute play written by Bill Irwin and presented by The Old Globe Theatre. Don’t miss it. One of the things I will say about all the amazing content out there is I’ve become a more ardent $upporter of the arts than I was in the past. A history of purchasing tickets has made it impossible for me to watch without donating.

I know I’ve been rambling today – a bit like my morning bike tour this morning. In conclusion, during the pandemic, here are some of the things I can control:

  • How much time I spend scrolling on my iphone out of boredom. (not a lot these days)
  • Who I spend social time with on Zoom
  • What I prepare and eat
  • What I wear (today I’ve put on a cute dress for our Virtual Commencement)
  • Keeping the hummingbird feeders full
  • Writing
  • The amount of news about Coronavirus I listen to
  • How I express my love for my friends and family

Today is Commencement for our graduating classes at USC. While I wish we were there at the Bing, milling about behind the stage with all my colleagues, taking cute shots and lining up to enter the auditorium and seat ourselves on the dais behind the stars of today, the graduating class of 2020. There are live messages happening for the graduates around three broadcasts of the University wide ceremony. Bravo to the University and all the people who have worked so hard to make this online celebration possible! To the graduates, echoing many of the messages I’ve heard this morning, “This is your moment to celebrate all of your incredible accomplishments and all of the adventures ahead.” Remember, in the words of our wise alumni – Control the Controllables. Be open to whatever else is ahead. When an opportunity comes along, take it! Make us all proud!

5 thoughts

  1. I got the “box of f**ks” card. Love it!🀣 Brava on the spin bike acquisition! (I vividly remember those hairpin turns, lumbering large tour buses on narrow, winding roads, and very speedy, filling-loosening downhills with miles and miles of switchbacks, on our Tuscany trip. Loved it!πŸ€ͺ) Very glad to hear of the Nagative ‘rona virus test results. Hope we get to see that cute dress sometime in person. And many thanks for continuing to jot down your musings. Always very enjoyable!

      1. Oh, there was some stopping on that 67 mile Tuscany Challenge Ride, you bet’cha!πŸ˜…

  2. Els,
    Renie & I enjoyed ur “Tuscan bike ride” & were glad to learn of the many aspects of ur busy schedule u have so under control !!

    Last night for Renie’s “48th” (?) Birth Day, Betsey organized a 3 family Zoom chat/view amongst Merritt Island,Brasilia & Orlando family contingents….9 of us babbling away/laughing.

    Thanks much for sharing.
    paul & Renie

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