Dress Rehearsal

If all the world’s a stage then I have begun dress rehearsals for an off-off-Broadway drama, entitled Empty Nest. It’s a familiar, timeless story; I once played the ingenue in a dinner theater production starring my mother. After making a sweeping exit in Act I, I waited backstage for my cues as a voice-over in anxiously-awaited phone calls and letters to the leading lady.

Now, preparing to assume the lead myself, I am called upon to improvise, as the original script is still undergoing extensive re-writes. In the updated version, the ingenue, played by my younger daughter, is scripted for an encore; with her senior year and college applications looming, the dramatic tension mounts toward a second, more final, send-off. And, while the writer-gods debate my character’s ultimate fate, I have time to rehearse how I would like the action to unfold. Comedy or tragedy? I’ll look to the unsinkable Molly Brown, not Hedda Gabler, for inspiration.

My real-life nest is, of course, far from empty. It is crammed with my chicks’ cast-off belongings (Giant Yard Sale, coming this spring!), and the space, physical and psychic, is comfortably shared with my husband, friends and pets. And though my chicks have flown to points east and west spanning nine time zones, we can stay connected across invisible wires, chirping out tweets, text messages and e-mails. No more sitting beside a land-line, waiting for the regular Sunday afternoon phone call; we can Skype anytime, anywhere. In the digital age, the mother bird’s greatest challenge lies in resisting the lure of constant, instant connection as her young take wing.

Over the next four-and-a-half months, I plan to try out several new stage personas by looking inward and outward to face down the void. As I set about re-feathering my nest, I am open to possibility, open to change, open to the surprises that improvisation brings. In fact, right now, I’m heading over to the writers’ room to propose a new working title: Open Nest. Previews begin this week.

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1 Response to “Dress Rehearsal”


  1. 1 rick January 30, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    The empty nest transition was enough to make me look for something new and perhaps inspiring, and helped me try new things. I was unhappy with the prospect of seeing both my children starting new lives in and after college while I continued to do what I’d been doing for 20 years. So I transitioned myself out of my job and went toward the unknown. That part was kind of exhilarating. Why not, since I had a financial safety net and an idea of what I thought I’d like to do (yoga)?
    Had I not changed gears, tried new things and left old things when I did, I feel pretty certain I’d simply have deferred change a short time until it was forced on me, which no one likes. How that might have worked out for me is unknowable, but my hunch is, not for the better. As it was, after new things eventually led to dead ends, and someone (mom)died who’d grown dependent on me (and vice versa), I went through a more difficult transition: instead of ‘losing’ kids and job, I had lost a mother/friend and my enthusiasm for what I’d undertaken. The inspiration was gone, but I still needed to employ my time. A couple of dead ends later, after the usual year of mourning, I started to enjoy what I was doing again without looking beyond it all the time.
    Now, five plus years after the original transition to empty next, I’m back to doing things that are familiar from earlier in my life (coaching), and feeling more certainty about who I am and what strengths and weaknesses to attend to, at least for the time being. Did I try hard enough, give things enough time, give up too soon? Don’t know, and for the present, don’t care. Which means my state of mind is again dwelling in my comfort zone.
    While your situation and your strengths are different from mine, perhaps your wiring is not that different. I’m confident that you’ll end up grateful for making changes and trying new things, and I’m sure you’ll be able to share your experiences with your many good friends. We’re all interested in hearing what you do and seeing how you relate it as you do it, and afterwards. Thanks for sharing.
    Love, (Brother) Rick


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