People are always saying to me, “Oh! You work with kids? You must have so much patience!” And the answer to that is, yes, I do…and I don’t. Actually, patience is one of those virtues I am constantly grappling with. And some days I have it more than others. Yesterday wasn’t one of those days.
Here are two quotes (said by me) that sum up my day yesterday:
1. “You are draining every drop of life out me today…and I have a lot of life in me.” (Spoken to Summer School students at the Paley Center who are writing historical radio dramas about the Vietnam War in order to get a passing grade.)
2. “I wrote a play for mature and talented sixth graders, not children who have to go the bathroom all the time.” (Spoken to my Kaufman Center kids after there was a mass exodus to the bathroom while I was in the middle of blocking a scene.)
Exercising patience is challenging for me. I’m a true Type A personality. You know, the kind of person who tries to respond to phone calls and emails instantly, and can’t understand other people’s delayed responses to requests or inquiries. I’m a “fine, I’ll just do it myself rather than wait for so-and-so to get around to it,” person. I have a history of quitting or giving up on things that don’t come incredibly easy (or instantly) to me (knitting, Spanish, African Dance). And I have been known, on more than one occasion, to read the last chapter of a book when the plot starts to thicken, just to see how everything turns out. (By the way, I do not condone any of this behavior.)
I’ll be honest, I do feel twinges of impatience with Helen. I want it to happen, now. No, make that yesterday. I want to be sitting in the Shubert Theatre looking up at the actors who are singing my lyrics and Robby’s music and who are bringing Wendi’s story to life. But, when I stop for a moment and chill out, I realize how unfortunate my lack of patience is. Life goes by so quickly (as does the process of developing a musical)—why is it necessary to hurry through all these valuable moments along the way and just focus on the end result? What precious things might I miss out on as I rush along?
So, when things don’t go exactly as planned, or as quickly as I would like—when Summer School students stare blankly at me when I ask them what dramatic conflict is, or half of my actors disappear in the middle of blocking a scene, or I end up at 145th St. instead of West 4th St. because I was writing this blog entry and not paying attention to the train I got on—I’m going to stop and take a breath.
And after I exhale, I’m going to look into the blank stares of students who are trying to learn how to speak English, never mind write radio dramas about the Vietnam War, and I’m going to marvel at how much bravery is required to move to a county where you don’t speak the language and start a new life. I’m going to move my blocking rehearsal into the bathroom, where all of my 6th grade actors seem to be, and have a sense of humor when sixth graders act like…well, sixth graders. And I’m going to cross over to the other side of the platform and start that long train journey in the other direction. Because I know there will be plenty of opportunities to practice patience en route to my destination.