I am Surrounded by Babies
And they are adorable. Though they do, at present, remind me of a Dane Cook routine regarding unpleasant sounds and child abuse. So hopefully nobody will squeak a marker against the paper or rub two pieces of packing styrofoam together in my proximity any time soon, because the likelihood of my being around or about a baby is high. In fact, when visiting with the Younces (see 3/11/07a) I was offered the newborn to hold, and I replied nay. Twice. Was it because I feared harming the baby? Perhaps, but I also feel there was a part of me saying in response to such an offer: No thank you; I'd rather not sample exactly what I'm missing just now.
Fatherhood, I expect, is one of those things that one can--at best--imagine they're ready for. And such dreamers are invariably wrong on some level. So, in essence, it's a leap-and-the-net-will-be-there sort of endeavor. I'm accustomed to that manner of feat, and in concept it holds less fear for me than it once did. No man ever feels ready to be a father, yet we do it anyway. The miraculous thing to me about becoming a parent is the choice. There aren't too many significant things we can do in this life that we have so much choice about. Career success, as with many other forms of success, depends on degrees of fortune that are impossible to calculate. Love happens to you, if the mystics are to be believed, and usually when we change someone else's life in any way it's an accident. And yes, a couple can decide to have a family and fail for one reason or another, and children can be accidentally gestated . . . but that choice . . . that readiness--performed in whatever degree of ignorance it may--is miraculous.
I finally came to feel I was making some interesting, valuable choices in rehearsal for A Lie of the Mind last night. Naturally, these came faster and better when I felt I could let go of the need to make really effective choices. So there you are. Nevertheless, I don't feel it was solely my overall relaxation in the role that allowed the progression. In my opinion, it had just as much to do with the development of the group vibe between Daryl, Todd and I (I was only there for my first three scenes), and the deepened understanding about the family relationship between Jake and Frankie; and, indeed, family relationships in general.
Between runs of the first and third scenes of the play, in which it's just our characters on stage, the three of us got into several discussions about family that included personal anecdotes (a necessity to Todd's process, if I'm not mistaken). This is the sort of thing that usually makes me impatient, and feels like a waste of time. My philosophy is normally to get a play on its feet. That's where the truth is hiding. I'm not wrong about that (you bastards), but last night's discussions were as revelatory as our runs were, and I'm grateful for whatever allowed me to really be involved in them and not chomping at the blocking bit. I found understanding for why Frankie would continue to fight for Jake when he's clearly such a f*$@-up, who only makes Frankie's life more difficult. We got some specifics down about ages, and overall relationship shifts over time. Most importantly, I recognized both that I was the only one in the room who hadn't had the experience of having a brother, and that there were parallels between Frankie and Jake's relationship and that of mine and my sister's.
I should have had a brother. It's even possible that I should have had two, and that I would be the second-oldest of four, instead of the older of two. There has been, throughout my life, a weird sort of longing for those lost brothers, the result of which is seeking that relationship out in certain friends and trying to be the best freaking brother in the whole freaking world to my sister. I have only had moments of achieving that kind of celebrity in relation to Jenny, but I'm lucky enough to have a sister who recognizes those moments and remembers them. We've got what I would describe as a good relationship. It's gotten necessarily more complex as we've grown up, but the essential affection is still there and strong. I'd still jump in front of a train for her without thinking. She'd still tell me if she thought I were doing something dumb. Does, in fact. Every chance she gets.
This is the kind of borderline personal information that people are railing against the blogosphere over, claiming it's horrid narcissism and self immolation all in one. Yet I can't avoid it in this case, because my life is just that tied up in my work. I suspect everyone's is, really; it's just that actors make a point of exhibiting it on stage or screen, in agonizing detail. And, more to the point, exploring it without judgment. An actor is a scientist of his or her self, objectively observing his or her own reactions and paradigms of behavior, and using them to the benefit of a story. Even when we do things we'd never do in life, something within us responds to it. Otherwise, the effort is aborted before it ever has a chance to experience the empathy of an audience. Either it's true on stage and we identify with it on some level, or we don't identify, and the moment is instantly false.
The choice to create is a bold one. To make something out of one's self and set it out for the world at large is sort of everyone's dream, on some level or another. It's always a kind of miracle to do so, an encapsulation of the spirit that is responsible for our being here at all. Create and nurture art. Create and nurture a child. Create. Nurture.