April 13, 2019

All the Brilliant Things

1.) Making béarnaise sauce.
Truth is, I never know what was in béarnaise sauce. I just knew I liked it on poached eggs. One day, I looked up a recipe, made it and was like omg, I just did something I never did before!

That was one of the many “firsts” that keep on coming even as I inch toward the half-century mark.

2.) Traveling 600 miles on Route 66.
It’s a really long drive that carries passengers through endless fields of grass at various degrees of greens and browns, through backsides of forgotten townships, through cattle standing witness to torrential rain and weather patterns that change on a dime. And billboards, endless billboards that invite you to pull over and visit Uranus Fudge Factory. 

Yes. It's a real thing.
3.) That Time I Thought I Was Dying
I had my menstrual period for three weeks. THREE WEEKS. I thought I was dying, and with each passing day, I regretted all the junk I’ve accumulated over a lifetime only to leave it all to someone else to sift through and determine the keep-worthy and the thrift store-worthy.

I mulled whether I had taught my daughter everything she needed to know in the seventeen years I’ve had to teach.

But it was just fibroids and I wasn’t dying. I just wasn’t in on this seemingly secret part of aging.

4.) Aching for, and laughing in the face of, Depression.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled on and off with depression. There was a time when everything seemed dark and the only bright spot in life or about myself were my legs. No, seriously – my legs. They were a gorgeous brown, long and shapely.

But even my love of legs couldn’t stop me from circling round the drain, so I got medicated. A few days after starting the meds, I looked down at my lovely gams to see they were blotchy, red and puffy. I was allergic.

How’s that for irony?

It evoked a prescription change and perhaps a few giggles, but not like the bittersweet laughing I did at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s production of Every Brilliant Thing.
The play follows a man whose formative years was marked by familial depression and how it plays out throughout his life. (no spoilers here because I want you to see it for yourself).

The brilliant thing about Every Brilliant Thing is the act of numbering. Pop culture calls it Days of Gratitude, my mom would call it counting your blessings, but as an audience we participate in enumerating sights, sounds and smells that make one smile or laugh – or just feel they are alive and engaged.

Which brings me to:

5.) Saw a one-man show
I’ve seen stand-up comics, but never a play where the audience was engaged as characters in the play. No rehearsing or formal acting, sometimes on the “stage” and sometimes in their seats, but there we were. (again, no spoilers here because I want you to see it for yourself)

After each show, a community professional in psychology or trauma briefly talks to the audience/characters about depression, and all are invited to process the play and its content via dialogue circles facilitated by members of The Zeidler Center for Public Discussion.

Even with nearly fifty years under my belt, I'm still learning that every day holds the chance to learn something new or try something different…and that every day is filled with brilliant things.

Terrence J. Nolen on "Every Brilliant Thing" | Milwaukee Rep from Milwaukee Repertory Theater on Vimeo.