The past few weeks have been absolutely bananas. Not in like a oh I'm so busy and this is bananas kind of way. I'm talking about the kind of life shifts and paradigm shifts that make you second guess everything. The kind of scary shifts and shadowy seasons of life where you have to actually search for the light at the end of the tunnel. It has been rough.
As you may or may not know I work as an artist in residence at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. There, a talented but tiny group of artists run a great deal of programs, performances, residencies and training programs for the next generation of young artists. The teaching artists work together, we eat together, we teach together, prepare for auditions together. We are a tight knit group, dare I even go as far as to say, family of artists. We are all very close and work very closely together.
It was a Friday night and I had just walked in the door when I received the news that Sham, a 25 year old promising actor/teaching artist, a friend and a member of our family had been found dead. Several days later, I learned that my Director of Partnerships and Performances at NJPAC, Caitlin Evans-Jones had passed away after a brief battle with Cancer and as if that wasn't enough my baby sister was admitted to the hospital with a vicious and rare form of an immune disease. All of this in a matter of a few days. All of this while working full time, running a not for profit theater company and auditioning. I felt helpless, frustrated and out of control.
I popped couplets of Advils each day trying to wrap my mind around the emotional and psychological stress of all of it. For the first time in a long time I was left with nothing more than voids, migraines, questions and deep sadness. I was teetering on the edge of depression and doubt. How can I be depressed I wondered? I have a couple dollars. I have food to eat. I have friends, i think? I learned that life is what happens in the cracks. You can have it all and still be sad. You can be fine and have hell breaking out all around you. I sat there wondering what could I do? How could I fix this situation? What could I offer to this? I came up with nothing.
Absolutely nothing. There was nothing to do but pray and be patient. I had to wait for the tears to fall, I had to grunt in frustration, I had to pray for understanding, revelation and direction. I had to quiet the noise, focus deeply and be present. Thankfully, I got through the funeral, the memorial and yesterday I learned that my sister may be released to come home this week. My hope is that things will calm down and I can get back to "life as I know it".
While riding down the highway memories of Caitlin and Sham popped up in my head. So young, so much life left to live, so many plans. I wondered what places Sham wanted to visit that he would never see? I wondered if Caitlin had a manuscript for a book in her? Tears fell from my eyes. In a guilty kind of way. I felt a sense of survivors guilt as if to question Gods plan. Again, I was left with only more questions. All of these episodes have left me with only one conclusion. Carpe Diem.
Life is so short. There is no guarantee that i ( or you ) will live forever or that trying days wont come our way. My mom always says "were all here on borrowed time" and its so true. And so as I rode down the highways and tears blurred my sight I made a vow to myself. In memory of all those who I have loved and lost I have decided its time to dream again. Not in the ethereal or cliche sense of the word. But, to really dream again. The big dreams. The ones that I only write in my journal. The ones that don't make sense. The drastic dreams. Im going to dream again. And not only am I gonna dream, but I'm going to DO. I'm going to allow their lives and life stories to inspire me to dream, create and inspire in a even bigger and better way. There's not much that I can add to their life stories. However, I can celebrate, rejoice and honor them by living the life of my dreams while I still can. SO I want to remind you that, Everyday is a gift. Even the bad ones. And, gratitude is the daily work that helps us to embody that truth.
xx Daryl L. Stewart