Things have been relentless, to say the least. Remember back in August when I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for, like, 87 things this fall on the theory that I don’t have a completely unpredictable and totally demanding job? Well, turns out that theory didn’t bear any relation to reality and, because the laws of the universe dictate that there must be opposition in all things, the past six weeks have been like a steamroller sitting on top of a bunny. Yes, there have been fun things (a couple trips to NY — one of which I still need to write about — some opera, some theatre, an attempt at taking a design class), but there has also been a lot of work. As in, I’m billing 70-hour weeks and 300-hour months while trying to do all those other things.
(As a sidenote, universe, why does the “opposition in all things” have to be “equal opposition”? I mean, it feels like the more I try to do in my personal life, or the more I care about what I’m doing in my personal life, the more work there is to disrupt and prevent those things from happening. I vote for a system of imbalanced opposition. For example, if I want to go to New York for a weekend of theater and restaurants, I’m totally okay with opposition in the form of a papercut, not in the form of 20 billable hours and a Monday deadline.)
That said, it’s not like this is the first time this has happened. The bunny and the steamroller are old frenemies by now — and the bunny has figured out a few coping mechanisms:
First thing is to recognize that I have some control in setting boundaries — and to insist on taking that control back from the all-demanding job. Yes, there are times when I have to work all night and meet that unreasonable deadline. But I also have to maintain my foundation; namely, nutrition, sleep, exercise and a clean apartment. When those things go, I start to unravel. Last weekend I realized that those things had gone and that I was unraveling, so this week I focused on restoring the foundation. I ate better, I exercised every day, I got (almost) 6-hours of sleep each night, and I cleaned my apartment. By the end of the week, I was in a much better place than before.
Second thing is to keep other people in my life. When I get busy, it’s so easy for me to go into survival mode and shut everyone else out. But in the long run, that’s not a healthy way to live. So, and I’ve said this before, whenever I have a choice between being with people and being alone, I try always to choose to be with people. Take last night: It was Friday evening after a long week and I was exhausted. Part of me wanted to go home, eat frozen pizza on the couch in front of the TV, and go to bed early. Instead, I called up some good friends whom I hadn’t seen since midsummer and met them for dinner in Old Town Alexandria. It was great to see them and I still managed to get home and go to bed before midnight.
Third thing is to carve out one totally work-free day every month or so — and use it properly. By “properly” I mean that it needs to be both relaxing and productive. If it’s only one or the other (or neither), then it won’t have the restorative effect I need it to have. Sometimes I screw up the balance, but today, I’m happy to say, I got it just right:
For the relaxing part, I went to bed before midnight and let myself sleep to the luxurious hour of 9:00am. Glory be, there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to feel like a human being again. Then I got up, had some breakfast, and leisurely planned the rest of the day.
That’s where the productive part comes in (and here’s where I use a particularly clever trick, if I do say so myself). You see, the problem with working 100% all-out for several weeks has historically been that, by the time I take a break, I’m faced with everything to do and nothing to do. Everything to do because every non-work thing in my life needs attention; nothing to do because I’ve been out of circulation for so long that either I forget the things that need to be done, or I find myself overwhelmed by the endless list and a lack of established routine to organize the otherwise unstructured time.
The solution, I’ve discovered, is to maintain a pre-prioritized, running list of “things to do” during the periods when I’m too busy to do them, so that when I do have time I don’t have to start from scratch. I tell myself that I don’t need to do everything on the list, just whatever I can manage to fit into the time available. So, today, I looked at my list and picked the following:
- Went to the tailor and delivered four pairs of pants and a winter coat for alterations that I’d been meaning to have done since last winter.
| The tailor is across the street from the German bakery,
so naturally I stopped for lunch.
- Got my shoes shined by a professional.
|The most unflattering angle ever.|
- Bought a new computer to replace the one I bought eight years ago before law school (and which is now as outdated as a handcart).
- Went to the Levenger shop to get a replacement cap for a fountain pen whose cap had broken during the summer.
|Of course I ended up buying another pen in
process. But how could I not buy a pen
that was inspired by Van Gogh’s Sunflowers?
Having thus satisfied my need to be productive, I dropped my purchases off at home and headed downtown to meet my friend Melanie to see the Riot Grrls’ production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus at the Taffety Punk Theatre.
Neither of us had seen the play before and we were curious for two reasons: (1) it’s got the reputation of being the bloodiest and most violent of all the Shakespeare plays, and (2) every character would be played by a woman. Here’s the basic plot:
- Titus Andronicus comes home to Rome after a glorious military campaign, with the Goth queen Tamora and her sons as prisoners. Tamora begs Titus for mercy on her sons, but he kills the oldest one as a sacrifice anyway (by chopping off his limbs and letting him bleed to death). [1 down]
- The Romans want Titus to be the new emperor, but he doesn’t want to be emperor, so he endorses Saturninus, one of the two rival factions, and makes him emperor instead. First thing Saturninus does is announce that he’s going to marry Titus’s daughter Lavinia, despite her betrothal to Bassianus, the head of the other rival faction. Titus consents to the marriage, but his sons are outraged and free Lavinia so she can escape with Bassianus. Titus kills one of his sons for this treachery. Saturninus says, oh well, and marries Tamora instead. [1 down]
- As empress, Tamora decides to take revenge on Titus for killing her son. Her sons ambush Bassianus and Lavinia in the woods. They kill Bassianus, rape Lavinia and then cut off her hands and tongue. Then they lure two of Titus’s sons to the scene of the crime and have them blamed for it. Tamora’s henchman Aaron tells Titus that Saturninus will pardon the two sons if Titus cuts off his hand. Titus cuts off his hand, but Saturninus chops off the boys’ heads anyway. Titus’s other son, Lucius, is exiled from Rome; he goes to raise an army of Goths. [3 down, plus 3 hands and 1 tongue]
- Tamora has a baby that is obviously Aaron’s son (because he’s black). The nurse takes the baby to Aaron. He kills the nurse. [1 down]
- Lavinia tells Titus that her assailants were Tamora’s two sons. He plots violent revenge and sends a peasant to the emperor with a message. The emperor hangs the peasant. [1 down]
- Lucius shows up with the Goths; Titus pretends to be crazy. Tamora tries to convince Titus to have Lucius withdraw by going to him dressed up as the Goddess of “Revenge, with her two minion spirits Murder and Rape, and telling Titus that she’ll help him get revenge on the people who are hurting him, but only if he calls off Lucius. Titus says, hey, you look a lot like Tamora and her sons, but okay, I’ll tell Lucius the battle’s off and that he should come to dinner with you and the emperor instead — but only as long as Murder and Rape stay with me. Thinking Titus is still crazy, Tamora leaves her sons with Titus, who promptly cuts their throats and turns them into meat pies. [2 down]
- Lucius shows up for dinner with Titus, the emperor and Tamora. Titus serves everyone delicious meat pies. Then he kills Lavinia to put her out of her shame and misery. Then he tells Tamora that the pie she’s eating is made with the meat of her two sons. Tamora freaks out and Titus kills her. The emperor freaks out and kills Titus. Lucius kills the emperor. Then they bring in Aaron (the black guy with the baby) and they kill him, too (but apparently not the baby). [5 down]
Score: 14 people dead, plus 3 hands, 1 tongue, and some cannibalism. Reputation earned!
As for having it played by an all-woman cast? Four things. First, I think it revealed a maternal aspect to Titus’s grief for his children, especially his ravaged daughter; there were moments that were more tender, I think, than they would have been had the part been played by a man. Second, it was interesting to see which “male” things the women who were playing male parts adopted to portray their masculinity — the movements, the gestures, the innuendos of certain lines. It was revealing of what we, culturally, think men are and how we think men act. Third, the horror of the rape scene was probably diminished somewhat by knowing that the “men” were actually women. As awful as it was, I think it would have been more awful to have had men play the parts. Finally, aside from those things, it really didn’t make much of a difference. Because that’s how theatre works — you’re already “believing” that the woman is a Roman warrior, so why not also believe that she’s a man?