My Ninety-Year-Old Self

(Getting ready for Gershwin at Bally's JUBILEE!)

“Listen to your life.

See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.

In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness:

Touch, taste and smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it

Because in the last analysis all moments are key moments

And life itself is grace. “

--Fred Buechner

Sometimes, I just don’t feel like it.

Being a slasher is a special kind of hustle. And anyone who grabs at gigs for a living knows that the hustle ain’t easy. Exhaustion creeps in silently, either from generating new jobs or from repeating the same kinds of jobs. No one is immune to that party pooper, Resistance.

Why do I have to do this?

I wish I didn’t feel this way.

I’m bored.

I don’t want to be here.

In moments like that, it’s easy to forget how absolutely, positively phenomenal it is to be alive. What a privilege it is to feel! To feel the feeling of hard work. To feel love, to feel want, and even to feel hurt.

But hop on Google and search for Louis CK’s “life is amazing and nobody’s happy” bit. Or read the chapter on Resistance in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Or experience Act Three of Thornton Wilder’s classic, Our Town.

To paraphrase Louis CK’s aforementioned joke, we should be running around this place like “WHOOAAAAA!!! WOW!!! AMAAAAAAAZING!!!!”

When I need a boost to get through a physical effort, I try to imagine how the tables would turn if I was suddenly unable to use my body.

How many people with disabilities dream of being able to run, jump, stand, and work? I don’t want to becomes I get to do this today.

I get to dance. I get to work hard. I get to move. I get to exercise.

And it works for emotional effort, too. I know that on my worst day of emotional exhaustion, if I suddenly couldn’t walk…or couldn’t breathe…I wouldn't have a single moment to spend worrying about my first world problems!

I get to live. I get to walk, move, run, and breathe. And yes, I also get to feel feelings.

I wrote this letter to my brother Rob about six years ago after he found himself on a rough cruise ship contract in the Mediterranean. At the time, I had no idea that I was writing about resistance.

I re-read it whenever my ego tries to convince me that I have something less than a gazillion spiritual dollars.

Robbie,

I had to laugh when I read your description of the ship. It sounds about the same as my last contract, too.

Sometimes there are days when you just have to paint on that Permasmile, brother. You know what I do when I have to put on a happy face and I don't feel like it?

I do it for my 90-year-old self.

There is a book called "Water For Elephants". It's goes back and forth between the main story about a young man who joins the circus, and his ninety-year-old self that lives in a nursing home, who can barely get around to go pee.

Let me tell you, the parts about his youth are exciting--performing in a traveling circus in 1934, meeting myriad interesting people, taming elephants, and pining for the gorgeous Marlena who rides twelve white horses in a pink sequined dress.

But the parts about him living in the nursing home and being treated like a senile baby are downright scary.

The book woke me up, Robbie. We will not always be young. The experiences we're having now while traveling and performing will someday be a distant memory we relish from our chair by the window.

There WILL come a time when you will long to be back there, dealing with difficult stagehands and selfish performers. Being surrounded by beautiful people, places, friends, exotic food and wine is a luxury. And the last thing you want to do is be filled with remorse for focusing extra energy on the bad points.

Think about YOUR ninety-year-old self. What would he tell you to do with your life if he had ONE DAY BACK in the Mediterranean? Listen to him.

My ninety-year-old self tells me to have fun during Gershwin, which is the hardest number for me in Jubilee. I hate doing the crappy choreography and I hate the weight of the feather backpack around my neck. The dress is shapeless around my waist and my boobs hang out on the sides, giving me "side boob".

But my ninety-year-old self remembers what it was like to be a showgirl. She remembers the smell of dust and paint, the texture of the fishnets that dug into her skin and left marks. She remembers how the rhinestone settings would chip and cut into her, and how she had to duck through the doorway of a musty old quick-change room to avoid breaking her feathers.

She remembers all of the things I hate.

And she remembers them very, very fondly.

What she would give to lift those old bones out of her chair and have that energy back! To have the gusto to run onstage and smile from ear to ear, in all her old beauty, throwing herself around like she’d been born with those feathers.

I owe it to her to enjoy myself! Nothing lasts. NOTHING. We'll never get these days back, ever. Once they are gone, they are gone. So EAT the cake, KISS the girl, and GET OFF YOUR DUFF AND DANCE!

Someday he'll be watching the birds out that window.... and dreaming about your life as it is RIGHT NOW.

I love you more than anything.

Elly xoxo

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