Today is Not a Dress Rehearsal for Your Life. This IS Your Life.
Life is not a dress rehearsal — Rose Tremain, CBE FRSL English novelist, short story writer, and former Chancellor of the University of East Anglia.
Anyone who has ever stepped onto a stage, whether as a tree in the annual kindergarten Christmas play, a ballet dancer or as a presenter understands the concept of dress rehearsal. Or, for that matter, the terrifying prospect of asking your boss for a raise. (Hint: Wear Depends.)
Here’s what the term means:
The dress rehearsal is a full-scale rehearsal where the actors and/or musicians perform every detail of the performance. For a theatrical performance, cast members wear their costumes.-Wikipedia
For years, I felt at some deep level that the situations I encountered, the people I met, the issues I faced were little more than practice. Some day my life would actually begin, and it would be absolutely nothing like my life as I knew it. If I just kept practicing hard, Real Life would appear.
Or I would walk through a portal into a different world, a la Clive Barker, and find myself in brand new circumstances.
It would be vastly better. So much so that my current life would pale by comparison. I wouldn’t make mistakes. Feel stupid. I’d get it right the first time, every time.
I’d be so much more confident. Prettier. Smarter. I would get better work. Find the love of my life. I’d be effortlessly slim. I simply wouldn’t have the same problems.
Everything but everything would change.
Because the rest of the world would somehow get it.
Now mind you, get it was rather elusive. I suspect at the time, my version was that others would get it that I deserved a better life. Get it that I deserved to be treated better. Get it that I shouldn’t have to be sad, or chubby, or feel inadequate.
Notice that the requirement for getting it revolved exclusively around me. I wouldn’t have to change. Everyone else would.
On a much broader level, people who got it were also respectful, courteous, kind to animals and children, didn’t litter, and believed in world peace and of course, cleaning up their dog poop (that’s still a desperate hope of mine forty years later. You should smell my morning sidewalk where I run).
Okay, okay, where I stumble at speed.
You could easily compare my notion of getting it to the embarrassingly silly so-called Harmonic Convergence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_Convergence) That rare lineup of planets caused millions to pour into Sedona, Arizona (among other places) on August 16–17, 1987 to be transported to an Alternative Universe. Where, of course, everyone loved everyone else, people wore saffron robes and banged on tambourines. That, of course, didn’t happen either.
People showed up in their dress rehearsal duds, too, ready for the rapture. Anything to get out of this life, in other words.
Folks have been showing up for the rapture for one hell of a long time. Somebody needs to text Jesus and tell Him he’s overdue. After all God’s texting us these days(God Friended Me https://www.cbs.com/shows/god-friended-me/).
Talk about an Alternative Universe.
I suspect more than a few of the non-transported stepped in their share of dog shit, since non-transported people (and their pets) were pretty pissed off about being stuck on earth with all the rest of us jerks. Which means they likely didn’t clean up after their non-transported pooches.
Today’s version of the Harmonic Conversion is the widely-held belief among about a third of the population that voting for the Asshole-in-Chief would ensure that the rabble would become rich. Build a mall in your opioid-flooded West Virginia town.
I certainly hoped, and at some very deep level, expected the rest of world to align according to what I thought Real Life would look like, if the planetary alignment didn’t exactly pan out. Real Life was lived by movie stars, famous people, who of course didn’t have toe hair (I did) or hip pads and a muffin top (my hand is up). People in Real Life didn’t have to wear panty liners. Their pits didn’t stink. Teeth were perfect and they had no cavities. Certainly no pain.
This of course was the real early version of fake news. Although it sure has sold a lot of products. (For the real story behind the beginning of fake news, see The Century of the Self, a BBC documentary that could very well change your life, how you vote, and what you buy- and NOT buy- for the rest of your life)
While I didn’t ascribe to the oft-offered notion that there were aliens among us (although I damned sure was convinced that more than one boyfriend fell into that category, and most certainly my fifth grade math teacher) I was still convinced that at some point just out of reach there was a future I was about to enter.
In case you’re curious as to whether the alien theory is still out there, please see https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/838458/Aliens-news-here-on-earth-extraterrestrials-humans-Marcus-Allen-Glastonbury-Symposium. Or any edition of The National Enquirer featuring The Great Pumpkin.
Where are Scully and Mulder when we really need them?
Part of the reason I was convinced that there was this Alternative Universe was because of the intensely persuasive marketing machine. This deodorant. That designer skirt. This mascara. Drink this Coke.
You too will be swept into this perfect, Alternative Universe where Real Life is lived, all is perfect, and there is no pain. Keep on spending, baby.
I put a lot of peoples’ kids through Yale. Certainly several dentists’ kids. Certainly the CEO of Krispy Kreme donuts. Certainly the CEO of TJ Maxx.
Life just kept happening, decade after decade. SSDD, as the characters in the Stephen King movie Dreamcatcher would say.
Same Shit, Different Day.
For my part, Robin Wright’s classic line out of Princess Bride was just as apropos:
My Westley will come for me.
My Westley likely got waylaid by highway bandits about ten miles out of town. Or, more likely, he settled for someone he met in a youth hostel on the way, for whom he didn’t have to slay a dragon to prove his worth.
I’ve no clue at what point it began to dawn on me that not only did others not get it, were never going to get it, but perhaps vastly more embarrassing and humiliating, I didn’t either.
Look. At least I didn’t pull a John Craig, who was once a fine, upstanding Colorado Republican who ran for office. In 1975, he joined the much-ballyhooed Heaven’s Gate movement which ended in a mass suicide in 1997, shortly after the appearance of the portentous Comet Hale-Bopp. Craig, along with 38 other souls, fervently believed in that other universe. Easily as bad as today’s climate change deniers, Heaven’s Gate took an otherwise perfectly sane, well-heeled, Hollywood-handsome Republican cowboy with them https://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/31/us/for-cowboy-in-cult-long-ride-into-sunset.html.
Although we didn’t know it, my bet is that Heaven’s Gate was a pretty good indicator of what was to come. The flat-Earthers and birthers and garden-variety whackaloons that now channel Sean Hannity and his hand-puppet-in chief. These folks are as looney tunes as the wingnuts who gathered in Sedona in 1987, if not more so. They were laughing at the Harmonic Conversion lugnuts then. Now these neopets are running the country as our shores slip underwater and vast hurricanes wreak havoc with Rush Limberger-mouth’s Florida estate.
Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds a whole lot like that comet.
You realize that all the hurricanes are a Democratic conspiracy (according to opioid addict Limberger mouth). Tell that to the North Carolinians currently swimming in pig shit. The thousands of my fellow military displaced in the Florida panhandle. That’s an Alternative Universe, all right.
I wouldn’t wish to point out inconvenient truths to folks living in an Alternative Universe.
But, I digress.
Look, there is plenty of scientific evidence that alternative universes could well exist. I’m fascinated by these topics. Problem is that to the best of my knowledge, I’m stuck in this dimension, fantasy novels notwithstanding.
Those who aren’t currently in this dimension, are likely cabbaged, tripping, twerking, heavily invested in opioids or other helpful substances. Trouble is when you wake up, there you are, man, with less money, more troubles and probably a lot fewer friends. And teeth.
My inconvenient truth, which landed a lot later than I might have wished, resulted in the uncomfortable realization that this was all there was.
Westley wasn’t coming. Neither was anyone else, for that matter.
Sigh. If I wanted something, anything different, I was on my own.
I got it.
Okay, I lied. I didn’t suddenly get it, but the light did dawn very very slowly.
Nothing changed overnight. Old assumptions, hopes, habits and expectations don’t pack their luggage and head out like an angry ex.
Hurts about as much, though. Which, interestingly, was much assuaged by finding ways to be generous. Helpful. Engaged. Of service.
Old habits die hard. It’s a challenge to replace one habit I(buy designer clothing) with another habit (I now do adventure travel, which costs the same but pays off a lot more). It can be done.
You can wait and hope. Or you can drop your waiting-for-life-to-show-up duds and go out and create it for yourself.
I still miss Wesley. Cary Elwes was cute.
You can move through life like a dress rehearsal, awaiting …something.
Or you can leap out on stage and give the prime performance you were made for.
That’s your cue.
(For the curious, here’s a little poem I penned about this very thing: https://medium.com/@jhubbel/dancing-in-the-audience-817db8e1602e.)