I have not waited tables in more than 20 years. Until today.
As expected, not a lot has changed. Waiting tables remains a satisfying exercise in short-term relationships, being sassy and being shiny. Except orders go in via computer now as opposed to directly on the rail.
And my body has something to say about it.
After six-plus hours on the floor, I hurt in all the places I expected to. And some I didn’t.
My shins ache. And although I haven’t eaten in hours, I’m not hungry.
In about 18 hours I leave for Tennessee to visit my mother. I haven’t packed.
And yet, I am flying down Lincoln Avenue in a red and white polka-dot skirt, Fly London Wedges and bubble-gum pink lipstick. My bike lights are on. My heart is full. I feel happy.
Art trumps fatigue. Friendship trumps fatigue. Commitment trumps fatigue.
And so I land here, in a seat at the Steppenwolf Theatre. Artist Date 4.2 (or 120, depending on how you count).
It is the student showcase – the culmination of 10 weeks of classes at the School of the Steppenwolf Theatre. My friend Tom, one of the students, mentioned this a week or so ago. I penciled it in my book and assured him I’d be there.
Tom has built me a dining room table. Installed my air-conditioner. And is also a fan, dare I say devotee, of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
I was never not going to be here.
Even though I thought about it. Even though my shins had other ideas.
One-hundred twenty Artist Dates under my belt and I’m still shocked how every single one shifts me. That the commitment in my calendar means something. My commitment to my blog. To myself. And in this instance, my friend.
That every time I begin, I feel delighted. Joyous. Like my heart might burst. No matter how or what I was feeling 20 minutes earlier.
That it really takes so little to make me happy … other than me treating me. Leaving behind the shoulds and have-tos for a little while.
Like when my aunt whisked me away on a few hours shopping excursion during a lull in the weekend of my brother’s Bar Mitzvah celebration. She thought perhaps a certain 10-year-old with a Dorothy Hamill wedge might enjoy one-on-one attention, and some fancy new duds for middle school – which she had gift-wrapped after we picked them out.
Going on an Artist Date is like that. Like being Aunt Ellie to my 10-year-old self.
Except I’m 46. My shins hurt. And I’ve grown up enough to have space and attention for the person on stage.
I didn’t for my brother. I was only 10.
But I do for Tom.
When the lights go up and the entire ensemble takes a bow, I jump to my feet along with half of the audience. Clapping wildly. Tears streaming down my face.
Pride? Joy? For someone else’s joy? Someone else’s accomplishment? Someone else’s art? Someone else’s heart?
I think Tom sees me – wet-faced and flared nostrils – but really, I’m not sure. It doesn’t matter. Because I can see him. All of him.
Because when I care for myself, I can care for and about others.
And unlike waiting tables … that has changed.