Several months back, my doctor and my friends suggested that I take a break from theater production – at least the physically taxing elements such as producing, directing, marketing and especially the combination of those three. I agreed and promised to them, and myself, that I would take the necessary time to focus on my health.
I agreed because just at the start of the last show I produced and directed for my company, Writing Man Productions, Mr. Harry by Philadelphia playwright Chris Davis, I became very ill. The treatment weakened me so much that, as much as I tried to hide my condition, the cast became so concerned that they were actually encouraging me to stay home on show nights – an offer of which I only once took advantage; I was trying to hide – unsuccessfully, I may add – how sick I was from them and everyone else by trying to live my life as nothing was other than ordinary. There was also the fact that I was trying to fool myself into thinking that it wasn’t as bad as it truly was.
Several productions prior to that my health would always take a turn for the worse as soon as the run was over; after running non-stop for three or four months at a time when a show was in production, my body would just shut down the first moment an opportunity to do so would present itself. It’s actually been this way since WMP’s world premier production of Starlight Supply during the 2006 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. At that time, I was down for just the two days after we closed. The time it has taken for me to recover physically after each show, however, has increased in these past six years. This last time it lasted from the day before Mr. Harry opened until two months after the final curtain.
It was after I finally accepted this fact that I reluctantly agreed to put Writing Man Productions on indefinite hiatus – at least for one year.
The first month after the medical drama was at an end it was easy to do nothing but go to meetings, go home, watch a movie while eating dinner and go to bed. I was surprised how quickly my health bounced back by applying that extra level of self-care. So when month two came around and the number of hours during which I was able to stay out of the apartment, I began to start thinking like my old self: “Gee, if I’m feeling better, then maybe I don’t have to wait a full year after all!” Fortunately, I had made the promise to them as well as myself to take a break; I am notorious for breaking promises to myself, but, since I re-entered a life of sobriety, I make every effort to be a man of my word, especially to the people in my life whom I love and care for and who love and care for me. I believe it was that promise that saved me from starting the whole process all over again. To all of them who may be reading this – THANK YOU!
Still – while I am perfectly comfortable with spending time with myself at home, at the movies, at the theater or even out to dinner, I have never been content unless I have had several projects ongoing at any given time. I suppose that is why during the last active six-month period of WMP I was working on a play reading series, co-producing Superheroes Who Are Super!, producing, directing and marketing Mr. Harry, directing one of the Twilight Zone: Live episodes at The Dark Room Theater and acting in another, and casting for WMP’s February production (this last of which has been cancelled) – not to mention all the work I needed to do regarding the execution of my mother’s estate.
It was because of that particular character trait of mine that, halfway into the second month of improving health, I decided I had to do something in order not to go completely out of mind with boredom. The challenge was going to be finding an activity that would not violate the oath I made to my friends and doctor. Granted, with their approval, I was still writing since I can do that with little physical exertion, but just doing that was not fulfilling whatever it was that I needed to fulfill.
The choice I made was to take a course at City College.
Thursday was the first day of class (for me) of “Detective Fiction” taught by author Seth Harwood.
So now I have my next twelve-weeks semi-scheduled with classes, reading assignments and (I can only assume they will come), writing assignments. The fact that I have to read old (and some new) detective noir books (currently we are reading Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett; next on the list is The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler) and watch classic noir films like The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity is a huge bonus!
I was a week late signing up for the class because, by the time the matriculation director of the English department and I finally set a time for me to test-out of the English 1a pre-requisite course and by the time he passed me and granted me a waiver to take advanced English courses, the class was about to begin; I was not given a hardcopy of the waiver until the afternoon of the first night of the class. As I already had theater tickets to see Little Brother that night with a new friend, I chose to call and e-mail Professor Harwood to request starting a week late, even if it risked not taking the class at all this semester. He finally answered my inquiry the Tuesday before the second night saying, yes, I can join the class and telling me what the current assignment is.
Another of my qualities (some would call it a defect) that is closely tied with my need to constantly be on the go is my impatience; when I did not immediately receive an answer to my question, I moved onto finding something else to do…..
I’ve been working with Positive Resource Center in order to get myself ready to re-enter the workforce. I thought the least I could do for myself was to update my resume in a fashion that accurately represents my experience and skills. At best, I will find a job or career that will allow me to do the thing I love most – write. (My ideal would be to become a freelance writer for several local newspapers, magazines and online media sources.)
The nice thing about PRC is that, while it does not serve exactly as a job placement agency, there are some people who, when they need additional help, temp or temp-for-hire, they call the organization and ask if they can recommend someone. At the last appointment with my job counselor, I was put in touch with the owner of a mail-order adult film producer who was behind in his inventory and DVD assembly and wanted to hire someone for a significant amount of money to help in that process. Since it wasn’t as if I would have to be in the films or even watch them, I thought, why not? (I’m not opposed to porn – I have seen [and performed in] my fair share of that entertainment – it is just that not only do I have no desire to no longer participate in the activity, the fetish-genre of these particular films is not to my interest.) I spend three days this past week working on restocking and updating the inventory and I am scheduled to go back Monday for more hours.
I have also recently begun to help a good friend’s father organize his personal files at least one day a week. This week it was two. In his case I would help him with no charge as I enjoy spending time with him and listening to him tell stories about his wild youth and times in the Navy. However, he comes from an era when if you are going to ask someone to do work for you, then you must pay that someone to do that work. And, since the work is fair and easy and the money does not hurt and because I get to spend time with a new buddy, I agreed to take on that task.
I also attend a Tuesday-night writers group on a semi-regular basis (I’ve missed only two sessions in the three months during which I have been attending). I play poker every Wednesday night with my aforementioned buddy, his friends and his son-in-law. I go to a 12-step meeting most every day (I average six per week). And, lately, ever since I found Goldstar.com, I have been going to a minimum of two live performances each week. Oh, yeah, let’s not forget the writing and preparation needed for the Tuesday group and the four days each week I have happily been putting into this blog. In addition to all of this, my sponsor has now (strongly) suggested I get a commitment at my weekly 12-step home-group meeting.
I realize to an outsider it would seem like I am just as insanely busy as I was when I was getting increasingly infirm with each activity. Normally I would share that genuine and valid concern; truthfully, I did have that very thought as my schedule began to fill up to the point that I now have, which is why I broached the subject with my doctor when it started to happen and have kept him updated with every additional social commitment. He has given his approval to maintain my level of activity, conditional on the my promise to him (and to myself) that the moment I recognize even one the red-flags that indicate an impending slip in my health (the ones I used to ignore), I reevaluate my activities and begin cutting some out. As yet, I can honestly say that not one of those warning-signs has appeared.
Not only have I not been given any indication by my body to slow-down, I have actually been recently presented with some facts that indicate to me my health, while still needs to be cared for more than most peoples’, has been on a considerable upswing!
During the last appointment with my doctor, I was informed that I had put on 24-pounds in a one-month period and that my t-cells, which had not been about ten in over fifteen-years (they were 4 at the time of the visit before this), have made a pleasantly surprising jump to 28! I have been sleeping better, eating better and walking and breathing more easily. I have more energy, more stamina and a better attitude toward life and toward people. (see EXTRAORDINARY and CONFESSIONS, FEARS & KINDNESS)
I wish I knew why my health has been exponentially improving if only so that I can keep doing whatever it is I’ve been doing to create this result. Then again, I suppose, like everything else, if I just continue to live my life to the best of my ability, my best varying from day to day, and always making the next right thing, and always making choices that better my life rather than harm it, it doesn’t really matter why I am finally achieving good health (I am actually healthier now than I was fifteen-years ago), just that I am.
As for the activities I have eliminated from my life – well, I will just have to wait and see how things progress in all areas of my existence before I choose to reinstitute them into my schedule. Even if I choose not to return to them, I can still be grateful that I have had the opportunity to learn all I could by having done them.
Who knows, maybe things occurring the way they have has been a message to me from the unseen powers that be that it is now time to do something different (but positive) with the rest of my life – at least for part of it.