June 1st, 2009: What a fine weekend, thanks to Mark Morris Dance Group, the Café at Chez Panisse and all the people I spent time with over the weekend who enriched my life at dinners or tea at my home. My two visits to L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato left deep impressions on my soul.
My primary care physician Lisa also went to a performance and I wrote to her earlier today, “I am sorry that I missed you at the Saturday performance of L'Allegro. I went on Friday night and Sunday matinee. I thought Christine Brendes really distinguished herself as the soprano in the vocal quartet. Her final duet accompanying the line dance is probably the high point in the piece for me; it is so stately, dignified and full of feeling for the natural world. How Mark was able to translate the beat in the music by having the dancers slightly drop with a bend in the knee while traversing those linear patterns is one of the 10,000 miracles of that piece for me. It is a masterful work. The hunting scene comes out of nowhere and suddenly teaches us how to see dancers as trees, shrubs, foxes, dogs, aristocrats, and we learn how to do this within seconds. It's astonishing. This time, I was particularly moved by Julie Worden, long blond hair, green dress. The long lines of her arms were particularly expressive. And David Leventhal's lark is always a joy He is so twittery, so gay, so eternally youthful. David was the first dancer in the company that really got my attention. And now, thanks to repeated viewings, I know all the performers. I have to say it was poignant, at times overwhelmingly so, to see this piece again, quite probably for the last time. It is so beautiful. It gives me so much. I receive so much from it. Of course, I want more.”
Yes, I want more. That’s been a big motif of the past few days. The visit with Dr. Jahan on Friday really clarified for me that I am into my terminal illness. As people remind me, miracles do happen, and maybe I’ll get better. That would be lovely. It’s not, however, something I am going to plan on happening. I sense there’s such a balance between being realistic about my health and at the same time not wanting to call in suffering and pain. So my reality checks are: am I depressed? Do I push away life’s surprises and daily gifts? Am I sabotaging myself? I was depressed in the early 90’s for several months, and I can happily say that none of that dreadful mix of extreme agitation and physical paralysis is present now. I am episodically sad more than I used to be. My sadness feels deep, and appropriate when it arrives. Most of the time, I’m not sad at all. I love my life, and it’s been a very rich, exciting life. It’s painful to know that it will end soon. But I’m still engaged by my friends’ lives. I continue to read with avidity, listen to music and go through the ups and downs of daily living. I still enjoy being me. My affect doesn’t feel flat or forced.
I am starting to plan, and this week’s effort is to draft a list of the things that I want to complete in the next months. Some of the things are dependent on other events happening first. Some tasks simply have to be done. I am so grateful for my experience with project management. List the tasks, put them in order, assign dates and contingencies. Enlist other people to help when needed. As my friend Eileen observed this afternoon. “You can put together a plan and then watch it change.” True enough. My reason for planning is that my mind is starting to work on lists of things to do. Get rid of Bianca, my car. Sort out papers. Give away rugs, glass, books, photographs, textiles. Divest, divest, divest! My plan is a counterbalance to feeling overwhelmed by so much to do. When I have a plan, the tasks get done.
It’s astonishing to move this fast, psychologically. A few weeks ago, I regarded myself as someone with an illness who was dedicated to getting better. Now, I see myself as a having an illness that will end my life sooner than later. With this new perspective, come new priorities. During the L’Allegro Sunday matinee, I watched with awe as Mark Morris led me through the hunt sequence where two foxes hid from a pack of dogs in a forest of dancers frozen to simulate trees. As the foxes outwitted the pack and a smile broke across their faces, I suddenly burst into tears. I will never see this again. I will never see this again.