“I feel like I’m in the interlude between acts in a play.”
I say that to multiple friends, some who are going through similar experiences, and some who are not.
“I’m in the interlude between acts,” I say. “And I know the second act is going to look vastly different from the first. But there’s nothing I can do in the meanwhile.”
Perhaps it’s the writer in me who wants to see things in term of stories. Plot lines, story arcs, character development. This isn’t just a set of wrenches in the machinery, or a sign things are about to get vastly different. No, this is a complex and beautiful play. Musical theatre, where characters belt out in harmony all the struggles that have been thrown their way. And now we’ve hit the crescendo, and the curtains have been drawn, and the lights are on.
This is intermission. The stage hands are working busily behind the scenes, but all you have is a slight ringing in your ears and the echos from the applause as everyone temporarily files out.
I try to remember the importance of interludes. The intermission is not a disruption of the theatre experience but a vital part of it. This is your chance to get up, to stretch your legs. To visit the concession stand, the restroom, to check your phone and chat and reorient yourself to reality.
To be living in between acts is not to be living in suspended animation but to be in a spot of rest. It is a chance to reorient yourself, see what you need, now that the curtain has been drawn, and have the time and space to navigate that. There’s no need to rush the experience; the second act will happen when it does. Scurrying back to your seat won’t make it arrive sooner.
But this is where the analogy breaks down. People don’t go into intermission trying to predict what the second act will look like, based on clues in the lobby — as they wait in line for drinks, for the restroom, to buy merchandise and souvenirs. How many people gauge their excitement or fear for the second act based on the colors of the carpet, the songs played through the speakers, the kind of people milling about?
Interludes do not typically have a heightened hypervigilance. Interludes typically don’t make an audience member feel like, not only are they in control of what the second act will look like, but it’s on them to accurately predict it and set up the ground work.
And maybe — maybe — this is where the analogy comes back. Because the idea of doing that in an actual theatre sounds like the ravings of a mad person. And trying to decipher those context clues will probably do as exactly as much to change the setting, the cast, the script, of the second act, as it would for an actual play.
Perhaps this really is the perfect analogy. And there is serenity in surrendering to the powerlessness the audience member has.
I’m driving home one night, and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Wonderful Unknown” starts to play.
Here we go, dancing on our own, inside this house that we have never known
I’ve been vacillating wildly between despair and hope, between action and inaction, between plans and fantasies and a flatline of emotions. I don’t know what I can be excited for — not really — because there are few things in this world as heartwrenching as dashed hopes. Because I revert to a small, crushed child again when all that excitement is met with cold reality.
The one your father gave, when they thought the world won’t end.
But I can’t help but be excited. And hope. And let my soul and my heart do what they’re going to do. I can’t help but imagine all the ways this second act is going to go. And think about all the different backgrounds and set designs and songs. Which roles will be reprised and which actors will be reprising them. To deny myself that sweet experience is truly more crushing than any dashed hope could be.
Oh, nothing lasts forever but the sound of love astounds me every time that it calls
Enjoy the present moment. I still reread the note I was given from my husband on my birthday, particularly the line about how he knows I want to throw myself into the future, in a world where I’ve already graduated and the dust has settled and this second act is well underway, but I might find that this interlude is going to be a very good experience for me.
And I try to remember that. Try to remember the simplicity of a life between acts. The gentle suspension. The anticipation and the nostalgia. Because, soon enough, the lights will flicker, I will have to return to my seat, and the room will go black as the curtain comes up.
Here we go, going it alone, into this dark and wonderful unknown. Let us go, let us go.