Shine

(In memory of a friend who sang, danced, told stories and jokes, wrote, thought, spoke out, warmed up a crowd, became famous, got depressed, pulled herself up & out, but who never did learn how to juggle, hold steady, or swallow her fears).

What if you became irrelevant?

What if you let go of that power you worked so hard to acquire? What if you just let it float away like a Saturday balloon, and watched it fly farther & farther away?

What if you let yourself be erased from the lists you were on -
not knowing if you’d ever make another list,
not knowing how long you’d want the erasure to last,
or whether / when you’d want to come back?

What if you waved goodbye to those fiercely loyal fans, and missed their affirmations?
Those heartfelt letters, some stained in tears, those spontaneous shouts of pure happiness?
Would there still be a sense of purpose, a sense of place?

Would the ego falter in silence, or hold steady?

What would it be like to walk alone, without the entourage and hangers-on?
If the only outstretched hands in your path were familiar and loving?

***

The hardest part of flying involves an anchor.

The beautiful weight of children bounced on a hip.
Those happy, steadying burdens of morning chaos and nightly rituals.

When will we be there, why is the sky blue, look at me, see what I did.

In the din of applause, in the largest arenas, in the midst of high flying success, this is what is missed.

Playful eyes and toothless smiles. The scent of a baby’s head.
Blush filled first crushes, giggling slumber parties, shopping for prom dresses.
You can’t buy this kind of tenderness, or order it around your schedule.
Something will go on without you, whether it’s the show, or the ones you leave behind.

***

“The messenger of misery has visited my house,” Marlon Brando once complained, not recognizing himself in either the message or in the twisted roots of misery.

A string of far-away islands doesn’t matter if you bring the sickness with you.

When Angela Lansbury’s Malibu home was destroyed by fire, she swooped up her Tinseltown children and moved them to rural Ireland, leaving the sickness in the ashes.
Her children thrived.

Others find balance by replacing the revolving door of celebrity
with ones they can choose to open, or shut securely.
They trade The Scene & the mob of paparazzi for grocery carts and soccer games,
and approach the red carpet as if it were a once-in-awhile date instead of a lifelong marriage.

***

What if you weren’t irrelevant after all?

What if the most significant thing you ever did was done apart from a crowd?

What if the power of love was really the zenith,
and the depth of all your fears proved to be shallow?

What if you knew there were no lists that actually mattered, except the ones you write yourself?
What if you put your faith in the real people who wrote you those heartfelt letters -
and didn’t buy into the now-or-never, strike-while-it’s-hot argument?

What if you let yourself be moved by those who have no agenda –
who don’t care if you forego an act
& show up naked-faced in whatever mood you woke up with?

What if you let yourself be loved like that?

What if, in the midst of that bone-crushing frenzy, that soul sapping rush,
you found yourself needing something else, or something more?
Would you take it, would you even know that you could?

***

Dreams don’t die with the headlines of young death or star-struck tragedy. “Not me,” the aspiring say, shaking their heads in wonderment, “they had it all and threw it away. I wouldn’t do that.”

Then they pause, and confusion hits. ”How could it happen? They had so much. . .they had everything.”

Still, their bright eyes shine with desire. The hopeful acolytes gather in lines that stretch around city blocks, their scuffed dance shoes polished, their songs and scripts memorized.

They stand for hours, feet blistered, throats raw, palms sweating,
waiting for their chance to shine.

Shine, I would tell them, but not so brightly that it burns.
Save some of yourself for yourself
& know that “enough” is not just a way out,
but a way back.

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