I Won’t Grow Up!


Untitled, Deconstruction, Self-portrait in White Series

I recently went to see Peter Pan, the musical at the Pantages Theater.  I had no idea what to expect, it was date night, we just had a delicious dinner, I had a little wine and I was prepared to sit back and be entertained.  I waited, with anticipation, for the curtain to open as the orchestra began to play. I started thinking about the story of Peter Pan and I really couldn’t remember it. All I remembered was being in the play of Peter Pan as a kid and singing the songs at camp in the mountains of upstate New York.  One of the special aspects of this night was Cathy Rigby starring in this musical.  My husband brought me to the show because he knew she was one of my heroes and role models when I was a young gymnast.  While we waited for the musical to start, we read about Cathy in the playbill and all the organizations she has created; for terminally ill children and for aspiring actors. 
The narrator began to speak and then it was time for the show about never never land to begin.  Peter Pan came flying through a window, sprinkling sparkly fairy dust. Agile and graceful, this 60-year-old woman was performing acrobatic moves in the air while singing.  I was right there with the kids in the audience smiling and enjoying song and dance and then I realized how fortuitous it was to be at this show, at this time in my life, listening to words about thinking joyful thoughts that make one “fly.”  I still was thoroughly entertained, only now I was beginning to see the metaphor of the story of Peter Pan unfold as well, at least in my mind.  Peter taught the other children to fly by encouraging them to think happy, wonderful thoughts.  I saw him as the true representation of the “Self.” He was honest, non-judgmental, and strong and loving and so open to miracles that he could fly.
Before too long, Captain Hook entered the scene and we learned that he was determined to kill Peter, to take him down, to never let him fly again.  Naturally, he represented the “ego.”  He was paranoid and strategized, manipulated and planned to find Peter and destroy his high flying spirit.  And, at one point, when Captain Hook put poison in Peter Pan’s medicine, Tinker Bell drank it to save him.  And who was Tinker Bell?  An Angel, of course!  We all have people, angels, beams of light that if we recognize them, help us along the way.  But most of all, we learn that the light shines within us and even after Captain Hook temporarily grounds Peter, before too long, Peter is back, choosing to think happy, joyful thoughts and flying again.  

It occurred to me that wisdom is not exclusive to age or beauty and that one does not have to be old or beautiful to possess it.  In fact, children are great purveyors of wisdom.  They live in the present moment, not attached to outcomes, they laugh when they want, cry when they want, sleep when they want and they play when they want.  Here, in Peter Pan, was this little boy not only teaching fellow children to think happy joyful thoughts but eventually he inspired the adults as well. 
The “story” of Peter Pan touched me so deeply that I felt a part of me was changed and not just because of the metaphor of the story and the beautiful music or the fantastic acting.  There before me, was the epitome of Beauty and Wisdom… Cathy Rigby. And in case you forgot what I wrote at the beginning of this essay, she is 60-years-old, a mother, a grandmother, and she was performing acrobatic moves in the air that most teenagers are not able to do on the ground. She “is” Peter Pan, having fun, believing in anything and everything and actualizing all that she believes in. It is no wonder that she now gives seminars on “The Art of Reinventing Yourself”, because she is a shining example of a woman who has reinvented herself. Cathy studied singing and acting for 7 years after having a career as a gymnast and winning 8 gold medals internationally. After that she became a sports commentator for 18 years. She has also created a company with her husband and together they are Executive Producers, a title that seems quite fitting.  At the end of every show she comes out to personalize signed, purchased posters and proceeds of these posters goes to Discovery Arts, an organization that brings music, art, dance and drama to children with cancer, serious blood disorders and life threatening illness while they are in the hospital receiving treatment.  My sweet husband bought me a poster to get signed by Cathy Rigby.  I waited on line nervously because contrary to what most people think of me, I am timid and shy at heart, but I was not going to let an opportunity like this slide by. When it was my turn to meet Cathy I thanked her for inspiring me as a gymnast when I was a kid and for inspiring me now, as a grown woman, to reinvent myself.  She gave me the warmest loving hug that will last forever in my soul. My thoughts are confirmed: age is truly an illusion and beauty most definitely is a by-product of happiness, as long as you believe and as Peter Pan says, “Think joyful, happy thoughts”.  I most definitely agree with Anne Lamott when she wrote, “Joy is the best make-up.”

In this quest of seeking who “I” am as a woman growing older in years, you helped me believe that I too, can fly with delight and I hope to always remember how to live in that delightful wonder of a child and to ‘be’beautiful.  Thank you Peter Pan, and now, “I gotta crow!”

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