It is that talk with your partner, husband or wife, or someone you love or know who now faces a possible end-of-life disease. Maybe that is everyone of us today.
In the story of The Actual Dance, it was when Susan and I received the worst news about her breast cancer. We drove home from the doctor’s office in silence. At home, we sat down to speak about what do we do with the rest of our lives together.
This conversation is a seminal moment, perhaps the most challenging moment, in any relationship. Oddly, when I wrote the play and began to perform seven years ago, I did not include that scene. That moment in our journey.
This past year something changed in me and the performance. I felt compelled to add a new scene to portray Susan and my Conversation.
I have been wondering what compelled me to do so, and I think it may be the pandemic. Maybe it is because today, nearly everyone needs to have The Conversation. We are all faced with the possibility of losing someone we love.
The Conversation. In 2000, twenty-one years ago, Susan’s diagnosis went from no-cancer to triple-negative, stage three breast cancer. I could see the end approaching since both my mother and Susan’s mother had died from breast cancer. We drove home after getting the worst news from the doctor. The lab had made a mistake. The first report said no cancer in her lymph nodes. This new report is that there was extensive cancer in the lymph nodes. “The diagnosis is changed.”
So now what do we do? My instinct was to bail out on our lives and travel the world, visit, and do things we had not done before, fill our lives with experiences. Susan, on the other hand, said no. First, I need to do everything I can to beat this thing. If we are not living the life we love and want to live, let’s change not because I might die, but because we are not doing what we love. Don’t you love our life here, together doing what we do every day?”
That moment has now been added as a scene in the play and is part of the upcoming book. I reflect now on what happened to make it so important to me to add this scene. Of course, it is an accurate description of what happened back then, but then so is everything else in the play.
It seems to me that we are experiencing a global moment and reflection on our lives. I believe that in one form or another, everyone is having such a moment.
Of course, Susan’s wisdom is correct. The life we lead should be the one we love, not because we think we will die soon. Instead, it is what we and the world are entitled to have from us. Happiness, of course, isn’t the exact criteria we use in making these judgments.
I would argue there is a different list, a “higher power list.” It’s not about “what makes me happy.” Instead, it is another question, how do we live a life of meaning, beauty, and grace in the world as we can perceive what we are here, in life, to do.
Yes, let’s do that.