Last Tuesday began my refacing project. Not plastic surgery on my face…yet, anyway- but yes, plastic surgery on my kitchen cabinet doors. Over the course of the last month, I finalized the kitchen project which consists of refacing my cabinets with a mushroom gray veneer, and satin old school drawer pulls.

I know many of you who read my post on the process will be delighted to know that I went with a different flooring company. That is scheduled for early in June. In the mean time, I’m frantically sloughing off years of belongings. As I put things in boxes to prepare for the kitchen reno, I’m asking myself – how many cookie baking sheets do I need? And if I need them, could they look a little less disgusting than these ones? So out they go. Today I boxed up a beautiful silver tea service and sent it back to the family from whence it came. I enjoyed it for close to 25 years (yes, polishing it not as frequently as it might have grown to expect being polished) and now it will go to the home of one of the younger members of the family who will appreciate the history of the tea set. Not to be macabre, but aren’t we really the temporary owners of stuff?

There’s a huge element of creating my new single space in these projects I’ve embarked on and which will be finished by mid-June. Always a renovator, from way back, this time I embark alone with no partner to irritate with the chaos of displacement that accompanies all creative acts.

There’s something exploratory about packing up one’s belongings. It invites introspection, memory, analysis of the meaning of things, weighing the true emotional freight by holding your objects in your hand. As I emptied two oak bookcases my husband and I’d purchased about twenty years ago to dress the bonus room in our old house, I realized they looked dingy and neglected. A quick spritz or 20 of Old English restored them to their original splendor. Keeping one, offing the other. I have lightened the load of the shelves as well, boxing up the books and taking them to Goodwill. You know, it’s really sad how undervalued books are, she said blithely.

This past month has been about activating myself, redefining myself, urging myself to explore outside my comfort zone. And surprisingly, with that mandate, came a terrible loss of voice. Haven’t written a blessed thing for weeks. What I did do, was renovate my kitchen, steal a weekend with my five-year-old granddaughter where we went to the zoo and watched silly movies, attended Covid Compliance Officer training, and stared at the blank page.

After spending most of April in Washington, DC, helping my Dad, I’d come back and written about the trip, shared it, then snatched it back from the interwebs after my sister-in-law told me I’d revealed too much about his life. I get it but that’s what we do when we write. Hopefully we reveal too much. Because it is in the revealing, the unbaring, that we discover our humanity, what binds us together with others.

This week we were interviewing some folks for some adjunct teaching positions. In the course of describing to one of the candidates what we had been able to accomplish this year in spite of COVID/not having our theatrical play spaces, my colleagues and I catalogued what we thought were some of the reasons for the successes in teaching and learning we’d had:

  • The intimacy of students seeing teachers’ lives –
    • the crying child climbing up on the lab, nose bloodied, seeing their teacher transformed into a Mom, say, “come on up here with us.” And then going on to teach.
  • The intimacy of teachers seeing students’ lives –
    • the student who was clearly engaged, but rarely spoke. One day she opened her mic, revealing the sounds of small children running and laughing, the noise of a chaotic house. Was she watching them as she did her college classes?
    • the student who dropped out of the class frequently because of poor wifi
    • the student who took their class…in bed, in the dark, outside in the yard, with their cat or dog climbing into their lap
    • the student who disappeared from the rehearsal without explanation
  • The refashioning of traditional roles they came to study theatre with us-
    • No longer a scenic designer, the student became web designer, streamer of content, creator of images to support the story, or that were the story.
    • No longer a stage manager taking blocking, they became a writer, a style guide setter, a project manager, defining deliverables and finding new ways to share notes so that everyone knew what they were accountable for.
    • No longer an actor waiting for the lighting and sound team to light and mic them, they now were setting up their own lighting, their own sound interfaces, muting and unmuting themselves in between costume changes they did themselves.
  • All of us clinging to each other for emotional support as the world changed in frightening ways all around us.
    • Sharing the losses together, of people dear to us, our health, our innocence about the lack of racial justice in our country.
    • We have been bored, frightened, angry at our circumstances, angry at ourselves for losing our ability to have a voice, or to have enough energy to complete our work, or support our friends or whatever reasons we are angry

Yes, it’s been a bloody horrible fifteen months and yet…

We have refashioned ourselves, warriors of resilience with new found compassion for the other and each other. We have come through a frustrating period of not even knowing where the path is. For fifteen months, we have stumbled blindly ahead, unable to plan our next steps, our syllabi, our birthdays, our funerals, our weddings, our commencements, our vacations. But wait! we have done all those things. Just in a different way.

It is out of this crucible of change that my kitchen refacing, my floor project were born. It was time to re-imagine my physical space which I herewith proclaim to be a creative space. And instantly, in that newly designed creative space, as I contemplated how to spend my vacation this summer, I sat last night at the dining room table and searched for a writer’s retreat where I could go.

Many of them were full, or had application dates of January 1 or September 1. Immediately my saboteurs hijacked me – “You never plan ahead. You have missed the possibility of doing this year.” Then, miraculously, I stumbled across the Rockvale Writers Colony in College Grove, Tennessee. Their website was inviting, and they had a rolling application date. I quickly created the application, in spite of the fact that it said they might not respond for 30 days, long after my vacation would be gone. Just the writing of the application (which was the first writing I’d done in weeks) reminded me of how much I love doing it. Explaining about the long dormant project I would work on there got me excited about it all over again. Everything about the property looked beautiful, and as I hit the submit button, I thought to myself, “Well, that’s the most spontaneous thing I’ve done for about two years. I’ll never get it.” And then I went to bed.

This evening after work, I checked my email to discover that my application had been accepted. I burst into tears as I thought – I am refashioning myself.

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