I was reading an article today about an actor who is leaving a show which I love and who will now be replaced by another actor in the play. This is protocol in the world of theatre. But I had many feelings about it. Deep ones. I paused.
Somewhere around 1954 or 1955, Shirley MacLaine, who was the understudy in "The Pajama Game" thought she would never ever get to go on for the unstoppable lead, Carol Haney. And the very night she was running late to the theater because of a late subway train (the same night she had planned on giving her notice), she was asked to go on (due to Carol badly hurting herself), having never rehearsed the part, never been fitted for a costume, a series of nevers which turned quickly into a life-changing beginning of her career because of who was in the audience that infamous night. And just like that, she was offered her first film role and the rest was history. The story is more compelling and more breathtaking than this, but I am trying to be concise.
I am not thinking of this "replacement" like Shirley's good fortune, although perhaps I should. I should be blessing this man his good fortune. I am aware that I feel personal loss. Like when our teacher is out and we are struck with loss and surprise and have to quickly work ourselves out. Like when a friendship fails and you see that old friend just happily moving on with her life. Or dare I say it, Divorce. And then re-marriage.
From one announcement in Variety to re-marriage. What a synapse!
But when I saw how quickly that synapse fired because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my beloved cast-member. I realized the most important thing of all.
No one is replaceable.
Not a dog. Not a cast-member. And most certainly not a loved one.
People may behave in ways which make it look as though you have been replaced. But to use one of Oprah's sayings, here's what I know for sure:
Love lives inside of us. As do the people we love.
One way of relating may be to address how much a person reminds you of another. But no two people are the same. Everyone leaves an imprint and even if it is a choice to sever ties, that person cannot be replaced. It is not possible. In fact, it is delusional.
Love is a unique and powerfully intimate force between people which cannot be mimicked. It can be nurtured and honored and remembered in the most beautiful of ways, even if you are alone in that memory. But a spirit does not die nor can it be killed. It is a choice to allow it close or near.
So when the understudy brings the house to its feet, we can applaud and celebrate without fear that Ms. Haney is on her way out.
There is room for us all.
It reminds me of what Geeta Iyengar said: "Somebody asked me a while back how I felt being under the shadow of my father and I said instantly, 'I am not under his shadow but under the light.'"
I am glad I caught myself today when I found myself feeling sad that the actor I love was being replaced and then thought of divorce, re-marriage, etc. The whole process happened at lightning speed. I thought of Shirley. I thought of how the new actor's life could change. I didn't think neurotically as to why my actor was leaving ("What if he has the Big C?"), in fact, I thought abundantly about an opportunity he must have been offered. And then I looked into it, and sure enough, yes! He flew to the South of France yesterday for what will be a period of 5 months to do a film with a very famous director. Mazal Tov!
There is room for us all.
And hopefully, within that room, we can lift each other up by seeing and standing in our own and each other's light whether together or apart.
I'm going to lift the shades so that I can let some more light into this room and make room for more.