The Magic If

Last month, I was made to feel very old when the first issue of a surprise two-year subscription to Good Housekeeping arrived in my mailbox.  Whoever decided to send me this gift was smart enough to keep it to his/herself that he/she thought it was time to send me a magazine that has an annual “Anti-Aging Issue.”

Well, I much as I bemoaned my aging upon the receipt of the magazine, of course I actually read the whole thing.  Some of the articles seemed silly and had nothing to do with me, but there were some nice recipes and some articles that were actually applicable.

Anyway, today I got my second issue of Good Housekeeping in the mail, and I decided to open it while I was waiting for my husband to finish preparing dinner.  I feel like that’s probably against some sort of GH subscribers’ code or something, but that’s my version of Excellent Housekeeping, so they’ll have to cope.

In the “letters to the editor,” there was a letter regarding an interview with Michael J Fox that appeared in the July issue.  The letter was from a subscriber who has MS and said that the interview was inspirational for her.

Well, I’d be lying if I told you that I haven’t been having a tough time with this whole illness thing lately, as I approach my six month MSaversary, so I decided to seek out the article to see what had comforted this woman.  Luckily, the whole interview is available online, so I was able to read it.

In the article, Fox talks about an acting technique that I reference with my students: “Don’t play the result” (or “Don’t anticipate the result” or “Don’t play the ending,” depending on which book or acting teacher you first heard it from).  Fox says that when you have a chronic illness, it’s kind of like standing in the middle of the street and knowing you’ll be hit by a bus.  You know it’s going to happen, but a good actor doesn’t behave as though it’s already happened.  A good actor only behaves as though it has happened after it already has.

He also references the “if,” a technique which requires actors to imagine “what if” and “act as if” a certain situation was, in fact, reality.  Stanislavski, who came up with the technique, wanted actors to use it to put themselves in the positions of characters unlike themselves.  Fox believes that in life we can act as if life is the way we want it to be, and it may in fact become what we imagine it to be.

I really need to endeavor to remember these things when I start feeling sorry for myself.  There’s at least one time a week that I’m running and think to myself “I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to do this.”  I need to work on not playing the result.  Yes, at some point the worst of the symptoms may take me over and I may be stuck in a wheelchair or with a walker or cane.  But what good does it do me to focus on that now?  If I was an actor in one of my shows, I’d tell that actor that the audience shouldn’t be able to tell what’s going to happen based on her behavior now.

I’m going to try to use the magic if every day.  “What if I wasn’t afraid?  How would I behave?”  I will imagine that I am a woman who is unafraid of the future because she’s not playing the result.

“I’m not at the result till the end. So let’s not play it. It’s not written yet.” – Michael J. Fox

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2 Responses to The Magic If

  1. Karen Liever says:

    Beth, eveyone needs to read this blog. I received my first subscription to Good Housekeeping from my mother when I was just about your age and thought “Has she gone completely off her rocker? I am not a perfect housewife who looks for “hints” from Heloise or some such expert. But Mom, in her wisdom, knew that I would learn so many great things from Good Housekeeping Magazine that I still subscribe today. I read the article about Michael J. Fox and was so inspired but I must have skimmed over the “playing the result” things because it opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at things. I look at your blogs frequently but today, I just cried when I read it. Unfortunately, including you, I know and love 4 people who have MS. My friend, Jen was diagnosed when she was 20. You and Jen embrace life to the full and do what you need to do to manage the illness. My other 2 friends just sit and wait for symptoms to exhibit themselves and they are always playing the result. They were diagnosed and then they sat down and waited for the worst.
    Beth, you are an amazing woman! I have loved you from that first day I met you in the park when “PJ” was 5 and a miserable wreck because we had traveled all night. You were always so patient and kind and you were definitely PJ’s hero. You go girl! Embrace everything life has to offer you!

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