On Falling Short
I’m one of those people that hold high standards for themselves. I’ve always been that way. Even beyond elementary school, high school, college… Beyond it all, I still strive to meet deadlines and deliver at my highest ability. Therefore you can imagine the disappointment that I feel when I fall short. Unfortunately, I am currently in one of those spaces. I have spent the better part of the last two months working diligently on my artistic craft. As an individual trained in theatre, it has felt magical to return to that space. But it is also something that takes more energy, effort, and diligence after 9 years of living with MS. And sadly, that discovery has been one of the most heartbreaking acknowledgments of my adult life.
My college self had the unreal ability to go from 5am in the morning to 11pm at night with multiple daily workouts, 21+ college credits, strenuous dance classes, and late night rehearsals for days on end with no reprieve. Oh, what a gift to be young and full of health and endless energy. Even thinking back to my state of life a decade ago, when I started my theatre company while adjunct teaching and managing a local business - even then, my life and body were full of zest and endless ability. Then again, all of these memories occurred before I ever felt the weight of a diagnosis like MS, and certainly before I ever experienced the mental and physiological repercussions of such a disease.
Recently, I have established a lovely reacquaintance with my bed. (To be overtly punny, we have become wonderful bedfellows…). This is all to say, I have spent many more hours in a resting state, discovering myriad new podcasts and gifting my cat with copious cuddles. And while I enjoy well-produced listening content, and I am happy to curl up with my darling feline companion, I have yearned for a more active existence. Therefore, I did not – could not – shy away from an alluring opportunity to return to the stage. Particularly, a performance opportunity so very rife with nostalgia and heart.
You see, my company has recently launched into its tenth year of existence - a feat that fills me with pride and gratitude. But it also carries an odd sort of currency because, when launching the company, my health was in check and my future full of possibility. I was half a year shy from that fateful day in the emergency room when faced with the reality of “lesions” and “multiple sclerosis.” Despite the upset of that diagnosis and an early journey of medical trauma, the better part of a decade has passed with great success and artistic fulfillment. So here we are, embarking upon a 10th season of dedicated, passionate artistic commitment - and a beautifully opportune moment to remount the first play of my producing career.
Call it hubris. Call it vanity. Call it whatever you will. But I could not pass up the opportunity to reprise the role that I first enacted ten years ago. The difference being, at 23, I had unbelievable stockpiles of energy and ambition. At 33, I carried an overweight suitcase full of neurological fatigue, as well as a novel degree of doubt over the purpose and impact of my work. Nevertheless, I seized the opportunity and stepped back into the committed life of a theatre artist - diligently executing my research and analysis, and behaving as truthfully as possible in the imaginary circumstances of my wildly unhinged character.
I loved every second back as an actor. But, outside of rehearsals and performances, I struggled. I wish I could state this in gentler terms. Yet the truth of it all is that I experienced a daily wrestling match with increased fatigue, mental strife, and chronic pain. And while adrenaline was able to deliver an extra rush of cortisol to carry me through, my body screams to crash and fully shut down now that the performances have ended.
That brings us to the present, halfway through the 11th month of the year, where I have missed my writing deadline and have tirelessly worked to convince myself that it’s alright to come up short. It is not easy to acknowledge that I am no longer capable of the grand and tiresome feats of my younger self. It is particularly more challenging to recognize the increased setbacks that come along with MS - this autoimmune disease that I never asked for, nor did anything conclusive to inherit. Then again, life with MS has developed a dogged determination in me and has sculpted undeniable resiliency. Time management may look different now. Priorities need to be re-examined. And deadlines might get missed. But it’s also important to note - and celebrate - the joyful accomplishments of a life richly led.