The air conditioning and heating industry set their units to 72° referring to it as “the comfort zone” because at 72° neither the air conditioning nor the heat turn on. If it’s warmer or colder, one or the other kicks in bringing the temperature back to 72°. Pretty cool as a metaphor for living … we get a few perfect days in our comfort zone and the rest of the time, we gotta do the work to get it back.
The dog days this summer lasted for weeks; it didn’t take more than a few steps on the city streets (or subway platforms) to feel grateful for deodorant and over air-conditioned trains. Getting around town in severe heat was exhausting, business pressures were mounting and our inner bitches were just below the surface, ready to blow. Sticky and squirming, my gal pals and I were brandishing make-shift shields against the sun (baseball caps and polarized shades) and each other (Clonazepam and chocolate). With our backs up against the ropes, it didn’t take much for us to square off, enter the ring and take a few swings at each other.
In one corner, JB, who was getting whacked daily by the hatchet guy from the other lead producer’s office pressing her for funds we hadn’t even started raising yet, was letting that shit roll downhill. Despite our constant assurances, she was panicked –and on the line for our shortfall. Theater investing is risky (albeit wholly satisfying) and in tough economic times, investors don’t hang around waiting to be plucked like low hanging fruit. Contractual deadlines were rapidly approaching and JB let fall her wall of confidence, sharp rocks and mortar imploding into her calls and emails to the three of us, adding pressure to our own cookers . . .
In another corner, Emma was having trouble breathing, feeling off to the side, forging forth but terrified. She was used to writing (and getting) government grants for theatrical projects, not soliciting friends and family for money. She could see how much easier it was for Paley and me, having partnered before on other shows – she was feeling the stress of having committed perhaps more than she could actually bring in??
In the opposite corner, Paley was dealing with deadlines from her day job, our show and the company led by the seemingly invincible Mr. CEO (who hit her with a few zingers including a romantic weekend planned by Paley but actually taken with a different filly — and after work drinks with a buddy of his whom she later learned he intended as a fix up). The first sweep of her broom was directed at the tennis-obsessed dentist. Wanting too much too soon (poor guy, bad timing), he got his bye-bye baby bye-bye in a phone conversation where he said, much to her shock, that she was the one who set the fast pace noting her desperado for male attention.
… And in the fourth corner, I was inwardly steaming from too many investor and consulting deals I thought I had in place, falling through. I was waking up with flashes of my future living in an empty subzero refrigerator box eating out of dead Campbell soup cans. Not to mention the daunting tasks of listing my apartment for sublet, packing and the whole what-goes-in-storage thing looming over me.
Our referee, Karen, wasn’t faring much better. She was feeling the ham in the sandwich with her folks getting to the point where they needed more of her direct attention and her older brother way inappropriately flexing his mental muscle, sending her on a guilt trip for enjoying her life, here on the opposite coast. Despite all her spiritual strength and wisdom she retreated straight back into that little girl cowering in the corner screaming for the lightening and thunder to pass.
JB took the first swing when Paley sent a follow-up email to a guy we all met at a cocktail party who JB thought was her potential investor . . . Emma took aim at me on a flight back from a visit to a regional theater in the mid-west when Emma, sitting across the aisle from me, accused me of flirting with the guy sitting next to me rather than having uninterrupted conversation with her. Next, I got sucker-punched by Paley a couple of days later when, having been introduced to a new guy (aka “Frat boy”) through another seat mate from an earlier summer flight, I set up a business meeting for the two of them and she followed up that business meeting with her personal details, emphasizing “single and available.” Once again she was mixing business with pleasure, oblivious to the consequences.
The Universe blew a whistle and the four of us retreated to our respective corners leaving Karen in the middle of the ring, wilted and drained.
The weather didn’t budge much; it was still hot, humid and far from 72°. In our inner circle, we were bruised and somewhat shaken . . and intuitively knew we needed to “do the work” to get back to our comfort zone.
JB went straight to her home on the gold coast and the arms of her hubby (rededicated to being supportive) and a daughter just back from her teen travel overseas. Emma found an energetic producing partner and together, they engineered a very smart backer’s audition for the following week . . . Paley drove up to the Cape, to get away from men — and me; Tool Man took Karen shopping for a plastic kiddy pool for her terrace and cooled her off with some frozen daiquiris and straight talk on sibling bullying – and I boarded a plane to Tampa.
Through a series of emails and texts over the next few days, we slowly reconnected. By the end of the week, our investor money started coming in and JB realized she could trust us to come through for her – and it didn’t really matter who contacted the potential investor as long as someone did. Emma proved she could outshine us all on raising funds – and I wasn’t flirting with the guy I sat next to on the plane; he was a happily married graffiti artist who’s work I’ve admired for years. I invited him, his wife and Emma over for dinner. Paley still doesn’t get what she did with Frat Boy who hasn’t texted me since her follow-up email, but that’s okay – she’ll get it with time and I can forgive her. Karen used her adult voice in a series of stand-your-ground conversations with her bro to make the point that although her parents may need to see her more often there, she can still live a happy, guilt-free life here.
In the heat of our madness, we didn’t slam any doors – we took a time out and in the process discovered it was our own fear and insecurities that needed a good smack – not each other. So a week later (at the event Emma put together), we were very much present with each other, grateful to be back in our comfort zone (until the next drop in the humidity).
–And the summer heat? Sooner or later it will give it up as we move deeper into fall.
NOTE TO SELF: Set the thermostat to 72°