Sunday, January 31, 2010

Animals out of paper

The SF Playhouse is a tiny, tiny theater in SF that seats around 100 people. As a season pass holder, I am invited to watch previews of plays, given questionnaires to provide feedback that is incorporated into future showings, and invited to special events.

I recently saw “Animals out of paper”, by Rajiv Joseph, which is (just to not give away too much of the plot) origami as a metaphor for life. I thought it was brilliant. The theme, the story, the writing, how perfect the actors were for the parts they played, and how talented.

I was thrilled to hear that at the end of the show the playwright, the director and the actors would drag fold-out chairs, open them up on the stage, and encourage conversation.

As I sat there listening to the author answer questions, I was startled by how different his intent was from my interpretation of the play. I wanted to raise my hand and shout, “that is not how Suresh felt at all!” except that I was keenly aware that it was a play he had written, and that I was just a spectator. I walked out of the theater almost wishing I had not stayed for the discussion, much preferring my own version of the meaning of the show and what would happen to the characters in the future.

If a director works closely with a playwright to bring his characters to life, does he then have to let go and put all the answers in the hands of his audience? (Yes, please.) How long do you get to keep what you write? Isn’t its very purpose to take on a life of its own, like parents with their children?

More importantly, how many times have I heard things –outside the confines of a theater – that I have taken to mean something completely different than the way they were intended? How many times have I attributed something to someone else when really the accidental author was my imagination?

Do we ever really get to know anyone at all? Or do things only happen in the confines of our mind, tracing with the people closest to us feather light parallel lines that, because of the flaws inherent in human nature, are destined to never touch?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not Alone

According to the Meyers Briggs type indicator, an “extrovert” and an “introvert” are defined based on where they get their energy. An extrovert is “energized by the outer world of people and things” and an introvert is “energized by the inner world of thoughts and ideas”.
When I first heard about this, I considered it a revelation. It took me the better part of ten years to come to the realization that I really did not enjoy parties or social gatherings larger than, say, four people (It turns out that making the distinction between “I like” and “I don’t like” is not as easy as it would appear. Another revelation.)
After a long day of work, an extrovert wants to go have dinner. I want to crawl into bed with a book. I don’t want to talk. I want to write. I don’t want to play a team sport. I want to swim. When faced with a dilemma at work, I don’t want to brainstorm. I want to sit behind my computer and close the door. This is, in fact, what I want to do even when not faced with a dilemma at work.
My job (which I love) is intensely social. I meet with people and talk on the phone and present a point of view and give presentations (often breathing through stage fright). When a co-worker comes into my office, my brain is happy to see her but my body spasms (it takes a second for my mouth to follow my brain and smile because its first reaction is to contract.)
What I find interesting is that I’m not alone (despite being attracted to that concept.)
I’ve recently concluded (through empirical observation) that more than half of the people who work in PR are closet introverts (don’t worry. I won’t call you out by name until you’re ready.)
I guess this shouldn’t come as such a surprise. The profession demands that you interact with a certain level of social dexterity, but it requires, at least in equal measure, that you write and think and research. We’re right where we should be.
Besides, everyone should have a job that takes them places they wouldn’t go on their own, that pushes the limits of what they think they can do, and that (as a bonus) saves them from their worst tendencies (I’d be a hermit.)
So if you’re a fellow introvert in a job that demands that you operate outside your comfort zone, I salute you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The best fortune ever

Many years ago I opened a fortune cookie and found this inside.
I have carried it in my wallet ever since.

More than anything else, this is what I want to be true.

Photo: scan of actual fortune.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

In case of earthquake

If you know me at all – or even if you just read my blog – you know that I am quite fond of order, planning and preparing. I make lists of things to do even on weekends, and organizing my closet is something I would do for fun. (OK. Something I do in fact do for fun.)

Given all of this, I’m not sure why I am so reluctant to putting together an earthquake preparedness kit. Isn’t being compulsively neat all about control? Shouldn’t I jump at the chance to better off in case of a disaster?

I never leave for tomorrow what I can do today. Ticking off things on my to do list brings me manic amounts of pleasure. If I buy all my holiday gifts the previous summer, why have I put off preparing for an earthquake for more than ten years?

Because the Bay Area has had three earthquakes this past week, this morning my way-more relaxed-than-me husband told me we are spending part of the day making sure we’re ready in case a big earthquake hits. If you haven’t done so, I suggest you do the same. We can figure out the answers to all the questions I pose above while we happily cluck as we check off this list.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

You can't go back

When I was very young, grown ups used to tell me that those years that I was living would be the most wonderful of my life. And I would think No way. You can’t possibly be right. The future would always be better, whatever was in store for me, and I couldn’t wait for it to start.

I see their point now. I don’t think I realized at the time what they were really trying to say: that what I was experiencing then would one day very soon be irretrievable.

I will never again come home and hear my mother furiously typing downstairs. I will never walk into the dining room at my father’s house and find all my brothers and sisters sitting at the table in their pajamas, their energy, their kinetic force, dark hair disheveled, my sister still a baby. My father, so very young, the fire in his eyes, his brow furrowed, sitting behind his desk at the library, surrounded by books in piles that were taller than me.

Things have splintered since then, and we’ve all scattered in different directions and built very different lives.

If I had the choice to go back even for a day, an hour, I don’t think I’d want to. I like it so much better here. But I feel anyway that I’ve lost something enormous.