When I most desperately long for all the spheres of my life to align, that’s when everything is almost comically tossed into orbit. Contrary to the mood set by twinkling lights around me that illuminate the opaque clouds of breath, I’m not calm or enchanted. Sitting here loathing the biting winter, I inch my patio heater a little closer than the warning on the label. The spheres, the mood, even me – all crossing lines, creating chaos in consort.
The divide between tragedy and comedy seems solid, but it’s as permeable as the walls of whatever neurotransmitter that fires inappropriately at night, crossing the line of induction to sleep. My students know comedy; currently, we’re salivating over every exaggerated, farcical detail of Anton Checkov’s one act play, The Brute. Just like we did with the elements of a short story and argument core vocabulary, we began our brief drama divulgence before winter break by reviewing those most essential terms related to theater. The kids will be tested on these skills by me and by the district in the month to come, but they don’t realize that as they are cracking up over their classmates’ renditions on stage, bringing the characters to life and completely enchanting me.
We know it’s a comedy because it emphasizes our limitations. Our leading male in my last block class delighted me today with his passionate soliloquy ultimately giving the back story necessary for the audience to understand why he is such a bear – he’s been through a lot, and our female protagonist has a mirrored, checkered past. Because it’s a comedy, we can predict there will be some impractical, magnified conflict that ultimately results in two people falling in love, often ending in a proposal or wedding.
And because it’s a comedy, we respond differently than we would in a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet where we can’t prevent the outcome no matter how many iterations of the play we read or watch or act out ourselves. If I took The Brute’s most outspoken character’s admissions in the form of monologues, soliloquies, and even simple asides, out of the context of a comedy and transferred them to a stanza in iambic pentameter in one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, I’d be grieving for Mr. Smirnov instead of laughing at his overuse of idioms, metaphors, similes, and hyperboles in daily conversation.
If I browsed my students’ list of dramatic conventions, I can explain that my current life’s production has a setting that is dark and foreboding, like one in winter with a patio heater, Charming’s hoodie, and a glass of red wine. The irony is that while my current life should be a love story that’s clearly a comedy given my recent engagement and upcoming nuptials to the man of my dreams, the relational sphere of my life can’t fight the force of gravity offset by this unnatural misalignment of everything else. Neither he nor I would be able to pinpoint the cause, but on our weekends together, I’m not merry or bright.
I manage well during the week, attempting to force as many things back in proper order as possible, prioritizing deadlines and continually putting off others that I really need to get to sometime. Unable to say no to a colleague in need of my expertise, I continue taking on new projects that I didn’t have time for but that, given the person and his or her need, bumped that undertaking to the top of my list. Despite crossing dozens of items off my to do list, it seems to grow ever longer.
When my brother told me once about assessing your life in seven different areas to ensure rounded growth and personal development, it stuck with me. Design a playbill or produce a video at work is my opportunity to jump up my game in Intellectual Wellness, so that’s the one area spinning steady now. Without creative outlets, I think I’d lose my center completely.
Also amongst these Seven Dimensions of Wellness is the Physical. Daily exercise is typically a sphere that maintains its orbit, and this holiday season has my schedule teetering enough to make sessions with Chuck limited to twice a week, if that. While I’ve nearly finished the prescribed physical therapy with my shoulder that’s also been crossing the line with gym time, I’ve yet to make it down to the bulleted item that says, “Schedule follow-up with orthopedist”. Putting off the likely surgery is sufficient incentive to subconsciously keep de-prioritizing a guarantee that physical wellness will require far more time, effort, and sacrifice in months to come.
In contrast, the Occupational dimension is where I prioritize most frequently. I’m excelling in my position, rising to some challenges, and sensing serious progress in my charges during and after class. The logical conclusion would be that if I’m busy but happy and thriving that I’d assess the career sphere of my life as one in which I’m making positive investments. I’ll give you the illogical counter argument instead, the one where I have to update my resume and apply to new districts with schools I’ve never heard of before, hoping Charming’s next job placement and some grammar grandma’s retirement align to position me in an awesome new school. But I can’t picture any of that yet, and all the question marks of our future after marriage might not cross lines, but it’s all pretty blurry.
Like the situation with my car, sometimes I feel Charming and I make it two intersections ahead and then put ourselves in reverse for a block. I’m not sure which dimension repairing my vehicle falls into, but the series of events is either comedy of errors or tragedy after tragedy… depending on how the producer brings the conflict to resolution. You be the judge: My check engine light comes on, I head to an auto parts store, a kind employee runs his magic box identifying four separate errors, and while he’s at it, confirms there’s a short in a wire that’s been causing my problems with a front headlight.
He offered to fix it, but I put it off since I already bought the parts discounted to replace the front bumper assembly and undercarriage splash shield damaged during a flood some time back. While it’s been at the top of my list, I haven’t been able to cross it off because the mechanic I’d lined up dodged me and I couldn’t get that fixed until this past weekend, because during the week I’d had to have a planned oil change and an unplanned battery replacement. Two days later, the check engine light’s still on, and I’ve lined up that auto shop wire repair for Thursday.
Is this a comedy or a tragedy? Is it in how we react that determines the genre? Ultimately, for Charming and me, I believe we’ll have a happy ending, though I suppose that cannot be guaranteed. Still, in a comedy, the boy meets the girl, loses the girl, and wins the girl, and it usually ends in a proposal or marriage; we haven’t gotten married yet, so maybe this is all part of that exaggerated storyline where we overreact to silly things. Without the comic relief, all our serious moments lay heavy in the silences and simple conversations.
Social Wellness and Emotional Wellness are clearly interconnected, and I’m not very resilient these days. I can be merry and bright. I can laugh at electrical shorts or kick myself for the inevitable impending bullet list items to come on that to never-ending To Do list.
Charming isn’t a dimension of wellness. He’s not an item on a checklist. He is my other half, and for five days a week, I do life almost entirely without him. Together on weekend, the shift to our uncertain house in an unknown neighborhood with jobs that haven’t been posted yet sets the tone for a serious play despite our desire for a weekend of fun, for a one act comedy just for us.
We tried this weekend past to enjoy ourselves after a rather intense premarital counseling session, and my favorite part was putting together the Christmas Village. Besides the tree which I’d put up without him, my Dickens’ village was the other holiday tradition I was unwilling to sacrifice. Charming put it up last year, so I waited, and he took the role of architect and I of interior designer. He ran the cords for the lighted porcelain buildings while I fluffed cotton ball snow piles. We made a good team, and now I get to enjoy the tiny people and props arranged so carefully on the stage, the surface of my piano whenever I’m inside my house, and it feels like home at Christmastime should feel like.
Looking over my kids’ lists of theater terms, there’s no way I could define Charming and my current two-person untitled production of life together as a tragedy. A tragedy has a tragic hero with a tragic flaw that leads to his demise. I’ve got the flaw, a fiery temper that flares up when I’m relaxing, and unfortunately, that’s usually when I’m with Charming.
I desperately long of the spheres of my life to align, to feel that my overall wellness is cycling in orbit, but there are some lines that can’t be crossed, some priorities that cannot be compromised, and some stories with a foreboding setting ultimately resolve to an enchanted mood where despite sleepless nights, I can laugh when the check engine light comes on or when I miss a turn. It must be possible.
Charming keeps telling me it’s not about the mistakes I make but how I react to them that matters. I can teach my kids the difference between a comedy and a tragedy with little effort. How do I write my next line, the line after the conflict, to ensure the happy ending?