"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dickens Diary 3....Great Expectations

I've never had them.

Ta Da. This stupid thing has caused untold confustication :(
Have I had high hopes? Yes. Dreams? Surely. I dream and hope and fantasize and wish as much or more than anyone I know, but expectations are a different matter. That's not to say I'm a slacker. I feel I've had a pretty good idea of what I'm capable of and have done very well with my skill set. I knew very well I could move here from PA and set up a life. I had Lisa with me and she makes me feel very confident. I knew we could have a forever marriage and raise a family. We're a great team and we both had very good role models in that regard. I took a job based 100% on commission because I've always known I will do what I have to do to bring home a paycheck. The big things I know I have under control and I am narcissistic enough to rarely ever doubt that I always will. Maybe it's because I'm so fortunate in the things that matter most that I don't expect much "icing on the cake."

 Great Expectations can lead to disappointments. One thing I'm NOT good at is sports. I tried a lot of them growing up with no success. My Little League baseball team never won a game, may not have scored, and the coach made fun of the way I ran. Our soccer team lost all of its games and I do remember we did score one goal in one game. I remember because I didn't even know it had happened until I asked what all the excitement was about. I tried basketball thinking my height would be an asset, but again, we never won a game and I sat on the bench most all the time. Not surprisingly, I was pretty much the last picked in gym class or the playground. It didn't really bother me, I'd just learned not to expect any different. I didn't expect my team to win, or score. I didn't expect to make any sort of contribution. Sports just wasn't my thing. I did still know what I COULD do, though, I was perfectly comfortable in the water. I was a fully certified SCUBA diver before I was old enough the drive.

The arts were another area I never developed any expectations of success. We had a downright evil art teacher in the latter part of elementary school that made sure I knew I had zero talent in that area. But it wasn't a disappointment because I had no expectations there. From the earliest days I was no good with the visual arts thing. My friends didn't want me using their coloring books because I scribbled. I couldn't stay in the lines with my crayon like the other kids, so I didn't even try. Playdough was for making snakes. Period. And I hate snakes. I was in the church children's choir but in the back and off to the side where I couldn't do any damage. I even joined the bell choir, but ended up being entrusted with only one bell and even then the director had to pause in her conducting and point at me when she wanted me to bong the thing; I was lost.  I took up the trombone in 4th grade after the band guy came in and gave an assembly showing us all the different instruments we could learn. I had meant trumpet, but wrote trombone. Whatever, I didn't expect to be able to do it, so what difference did it make? I was in a small class with two of us, me and Doug Miller. Doug was a musical prodigy. I struggled for about four months trying to learn three notes and then gave up. I eventually took a photography class in high school and that's been my "artistic" outlet ever since. Recently I've started mucking about with Photoshop and fooling myself that THAT is "art."

I don't mean to be complaining here, I have been perfectly happy living within what I know I can do and do well. Controlling expectations leads to minimizing disappointment, right? I don't get jealous of the people who can hit a baseball at the picnic (I struck out at wiffleball at a work picnic once), or sing or dance or play golf once in a blue moon and still score less than 120. I enjoy them for what they are and remain happy with what I am, in my comfort zone. That is until this year.

Munchkin Houses :)
I've written before about how our involvement with the Brunswick Little Theatre has opened new doors for our whole family. For the first time ever I am participating in "the arts." It's not a new thing for the rest of my family, Lisa sings in the church choir and John plays trombone (how fitting, huh?) in the school band, but it's new to me and definitely moving away from my comfort zone.  Whether it was on purpose or not I'll never know, but Jen couldn't have drawn me out more expertly. She played to what I knew I could do with the stage manager job. She was very vague about her expectations at the start and let me grow and learn my way into the role. It worked. On opening night she gave her director's pep talk and announced she was turning it over to her stage managers. She sat in the audience during shows, watching her creation in the hands of others. I was one of three stage managers, the other two much more experienced than myself. On that opening night, after Jen had taken her place out in the house, one of the other stage managers came to me and asked if Jen really wasn't going to be back stage, was this show REALLY all up to us now? She was terrified by the idea, and she has a degree in Theatre Arts and has stage managed many, many shows. And there I was, totally new and inexperienced, waiting to see a curtain open from the stage side of things for the first time in my whole life, and I was well within my comfort zone. That comfort zone had actually grown. I had grown. I had broken rules I had for myself for years and years. It's a small thing, a very small thing, but I had painted two of the three munchkin house roofs. Mrs. Dunleavey, the art teacher witch at North Wales Elementary, would have had a coronary. I had learned how to paint a set piece, not like a pro for sure, but well enough to be proud of, I think, because Jen's expectations are greater than mine. The houses started out as a part of our parade float. Jen wasn't at all happy with them. I thought they were fine, not because I'd helped paint them and was happy with my work, but because I figured it was an amateur production, it was a set for a scene full of little kids and I was as usual willing to settle for what was easy and quick and already done. Jen wasn't. She said we re-paint the Munchkin houses because they didn't look as they should. I took a deep breath, shut my mouth and tried again with the thatch roofs. Jen watched and corrected and watched and judged and set me to it again. She taught me like no one in my life had done before. She could have done it herself a thousand times better and much faster, but she didn't. She asked, well demanded, that I begin to learn how to use three colors of paint on plywood to make an audience see a thatched roof. It was the closest thing to "real art" I've ever done, and I am proud of it because it was finally good enough. It could have been better, but because Jen has real expectations, good enough is a compliment. There's a real lesson for me there, if my thick skull will let it in.

Now we come to the Charles Dickens Festival. After telling Jen I was happy to be involved with the theatre, but couldn't act, sing or dance, I find myself preparing to portray Uriah Heep, dance in front of an audience and help sing showtunes from Oliver! Once again, Jen drew me out of my happy place gently. She told me the character acting wasn't that much different than the murder mystery parties we'd done a few years back. She told me the dance was more walking around and clapping then really dancing. She just bluntly told me that I was going to join in the singing. A few years ago I'd have had no part in these things, especially trying to sing in front of people, but something's changed. I'm wondering if I don't set my bar too low. I'm wondering if I'm not just lazy. I'm wondering how much of a disservice I've done to myself allowing that laziness. It's been on my mind a lot this week.

I love having people in my life who accept me as I am. I try to be that to others, to remind them that they are great just as they are. But lately I've been challenged to be more than I was. It isn't always comfortable and I fight it sometimes. I have dismissed high standards people hold for themselves and others as "perfectionism," and that was wrong. Comfort zones are for lazy people and I'm going to try to break that habit. And I promise to try to help others do the same in the future. It's a big switch for me, but I have every idea that given time and maybe a few reminders I can maybe bring others the gift Great Expectations.

1 comment:

  1. "whether it was on purpose or not...."

    Humph. I only do things accidentally.