Deb and Barb Have A Three-Way With Cheryl
The Open Door Policy
|Our lovely Cheryl|
Cheryl: Thanks to Barb and Deb for asking me out to play. Any qualms I may ever have had about blogdom have been put aside by my stroked ego. Suddenly baring my soul to masses of unknown and possibly scary strangers (I still harbour boogeyman trepidation) lost its power when two actual writers whom I respect thought enough of me to invite me aboard their baby.
Which brings me to my theme: walking through the open door.
I’ve come to believe that, whenever what we’re “supposed” to do is as clear as mud, all we need do is wait to see what the universe offers up. All the planning, capitulation, and manipulation with which I’ve ever forced my will has brought me … I start to say “aggravation”, but will go the high road and use “hard-learned lessons”. But when I centre myself and look for the opportunities that present themselves, having faith that they will serve my greater good, perhaps not comfort but good, I can at this point in my life go with the flow. There was a time––a long time––when, if a plan had been made, even just a thought had been thought, come hell or high water I would make sure that it came to fruition. It never occurred to me that, just maybe, what I perceived as an unwelcome interruption or a dastardly detour might offer a happier road, a new insight, some growth, a new friend even.
Twenty-four years ago I fell in love with a man. I had always been peeking around emotional corners to find the someone whom I would recognize emotionally and spiritually as THE ONE and there he was. My One and Only. I recognized him in the deepest part of me. But there were hurdles to overcome. Scary hurdles. Hurdles that stoked my deepest fears.
The universe had gone to great lengths to get our paths to cross. A series of “coincidences” had contrived to open a door to this new relationship. Would I let my fear walk me away from that door?.......
When I was in Grade Six I had the scariest teacher in the school––old Mrs. Wheeler (originally Miss Pea, but Mr. Wheeler scooped up that cranky gal late in life). I was a shy and timid child, but one day I found myself standing up in front of the whole class telling Mrs. Wheeler that I thought she was being unfair to another student. I peed my pants as I was saying it but say it I did. Courage at its … wettest.
Anyway, that same courage is often necessary to walk through open doors. I didn’t want, at the end of my days, to wonder what might have been if I’d walked through that open door to my soulmate. So I summed up that pee-as-you-go courage and walked through the door of opportunity to what, yes, would be some rough times but would end up being the wondrous and definitely meant-to-be marriage we have today and for which I’m so grateful.
I find the open door policy works for issues far less significant than finding my life partner too. I find those open doors in the daily crossing of paths, in the snatches of conversation that stick with and inspire me, in the page a book opens to. Every day, everywhere. Although admittedly mixing metaphors, this poem I’ve kept since my teen years and which I had read at our wedding puts it well:
Ahead of me,
branching from the path,
a new one begins,
slender thread climbing steep
to curve off
Everything in me
cautions: keep straight
to the well-worn trail
which can’t lead you
too far wrong.
But I find myself
shedding all doubts
in the way my back bends
to take the rough tilt
of the hill, by the way
my muscles strain
near the top – all of me
for what lies beyond.
Deb: I have seen that peeing courage in Cheryl many times as she is always one to stand up for the downtrodden. Hopefully she pees in her mind now, not in her pants. Cheryl and I have grown together in friendship since we were eighteen and in theatre school. Outside of our children and husbands, we have been each other's rock, sounding board, sister, advisor and loving friend.
There was a time, only once, years ago where we had a falling out. As I look back on that time, I see how complicated and painful it was for both of us. I see the worst parts of my younger self, the scared and insecure part and the memory of that time shames me. I thought our friendship was done. Both of us did, and during those dark days of our crisis, I was lost and so was Cheryl. But we could not find our way back to each other. We were young so we did not have the tools that experience brings to communicate and work through it all like we do now. (Points for aging!) We were far too young to know that there were much worse things to come in our young lives and that looking back, this would seem like a blip on the radar screen.
But at the time, it seemed like the worse thing that would ever happen to us. What could be worse than this? Then suddenly, Cheryl lost her dear darling grandfather, her Gaggy, whom I also knew and loved.
It was a horrible loss to everyone but Gaggy gave us a gorgeous gift with his heartbreaking departure. He brought us back together. He brought us back without fanfare, or drama. Cheryl simply picked up the phone and called me, her voice wrenching out through tears. "Gaggy's gone." And we were one again.
I stood by her during that time and not a word of our falling out was uttered. We simply went back to doing what we do best. Loving and caring for each other. The day before Gaggy died I was weeping by myself in my tiny bachelor apartment thinking "I cannot believe our friendship is over". I needn't have worried. The universe had other plans. Sometimes the universe is very smart.
Barbara: Wow, Deb, what a stunning story of the power of a friendship that was meant to be (the “friend for life” in that old saying: a friend for a reason, a season, or for life). And wow, Cheryl. First of all, just how beautifully expressed is this? And secondly, you’ve put into words (utterly gorgeous words) my own sense of purposeful wandering. I too am a go-getter, a make-things-happen-as-much-as-you-can type of person. But life keeps insisting that it has other plans for me—good plans, better ones.
I had a horrible, terrible emotional, not quite a “breakdown” but something akin to that, something that felt as close to a breakdown as I would let myself get, back in my mid/late-30s. It had everything to do with feeling frustrated and creatively thwarted. And you know what happened? Someone made me pick up The Artist’s Way (which, if you don’t know it, is a guide to unleashing your blocked creative juices) and I started writing again. Didn’t even know I wanted/needed to write again. And then a few years later, someone called me in for a meeting and asked me if I could be on the lookout for film scripts for them, which prompted me to question why, as an actor, I’d never tried to write a screenplay before, which prompted me to begin writing them. And then last year, a collaborator and friend basically told Deb and I to write a blog, it was the way to go. And you know what? It has all been, ALL of it, the scary, unknown, wonderful way to go.
Writing has, if not literally saved my life, certainly made it more wondrous and amazing than anything I anticipated before my crisis. As have all the other paths, aimed for and stumbled upon, that have veered me this way and that. You, Cheryl, and the lovely poem you’ve included here just perfectly capture how brave you have to be to choose life’s off-roading journeys—and how thrilling it is when you do.
Cheryl MacInnis is an actor living in Toronto with her husband and daughter, three dogs and a cat. She is co-creator and partner in Scene and Heard, Inc., a company specializing in communication and presentation coaching utilizing the actors’ training techniques as applied to the demands of the professional business arena.