so this is the new year

I once again find myself staring down the end of a calendar year and thinking, ‘Thank G-d that’s almost over.’

The sentiment is not entirely fair.  So much of this year has been breath-taking, beautiful, awe-inspiring, soul-reviving, and fantastic.  Some of the best decisions I have ever made have happened this year.  I have laughed harder at a joke in a film than ever before in my life.  I have been brought to tears by the simple goodness of life contained in a letter while standing in a crowded museum.  The fact that both of these incidents were somehow related to Muppets will not surprise anyone who has ever met me (or any Muppets).  I have made such amazing connections and met such incredible people.  I have strengthened relationships, both that were already good and some that I thought completely lost.  My writing has improved by leaps and bounds to the point where I have stared at paragraphs I’ve composed, unable to believe that something so lovely just fell from my fingers.  I’ve created.  I’ve achieved.  I’ve grown.  I find myself having hope for the future.  I find myself thinking that I might have a future after all.

I’ve also sat in hospital waiting rooms at three in the morning, terrified of the coming days.  I’ve wept so hard I couldn’t breathe.  I’ve prayed for someone to not wake up for fear of what they would find when they did.  I’ve felt endangered, alone, listless, hopeless, impotent, petrified.  I’ve had to say goodbye.  I’ve been forced to make the call I hate to make, the one where I whisper, ‘Please, help, I can’t be alone right now.’

I’m so grateful that that paragraph is smaller than the one it followed, but I also know how much I’ve edited out.

So much of my time is spent reflecting on the horrors of growing up.  This seems to be a common theme for people my age.  We’re expected to be independent enough to file our insurance and pay our own taxes and get married and have children, but no one between the ages of fifteen and fifty have any idea what they’re actually doing.  I become aggressive when someone suggests I have no business deciding who I live with or where I shop or what is best for me, but I also dissolve into tears in the middle of the grocery store when asked what kind of dessert I want to purchase because a hairdresser was condescending towards me an hour ago and how can you possibly expect me to make decisions under these circumstances?

That’s simply the way of being this age.  You’re stuck.  You’re reached the point where you can’t ask your parents for any but the direst of favours.  You’ve realised that you’ll never be able to please everyone and someone is always around to accuse you of being precocious/irresponsible/slovenly/haughty/prudish/loose/zealous/aloof, and since you’re going to get flack anyway, what’s the point in trying to impress those judgemental snobs?  And you finally reach the point where you can wear long underwear without an Ellen Tebbits-esque meltdown about what people will think of you for wearing long underwear only to realise you’ve been misspelling ‘Tebbits’ your entire life.

You can’t win.  You can never win.  And if that’s not enough to make a person a little blue, I don’t know what is.

I try to keep upbeat.  I go through periods where everything is gloom and doom and I make a point of reminding myself that everyone feels that way sometimes.  You’ll have a good day again.  And that good day will be awesome.  And maybe everything feels like shit right now, but you’ve had worse shit.  At least the shit you went through this year was shit you didn’t have to ford alone.

I sat in that hospital waiting room with a man who means the world to me.  He told me stupid jokes and read People Magazine en Español aloud until I laughed.

I wept so hard I couldn’t breathe because I had lost people that were truly extraordinary and caring and brilliant, people I didn’t want to lose because of how much better they had made my life.

I prayed for someone not to wake up because I knew the world he would wake to would cause him tremendous pain.  I didn’t want him to go through that.

I had to say goodbye, but in doing so I was able to teach the world how amazing the people I was saying goodbye to were.  I was able to introduce a stranger to the most remarkable young life I have ever met.  And he laughed at her jokes.  And he was stunned by her creativity.  And he was so grateful I shared that tiny part of her incredible life.

I made that call.  I made it more than once this year.  But at the end of the day, I had someone to call.  I had somewhere to go.  I have people in my life who listen, who pour another glass of wine, who hold me and tell me, ‘I’m so glad you’re still here.’

It could all be so much worse.

It seems stupid to have any sort of existential crisis at 26.  But then I remember that I had existential crises at 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, ad infinitum, and it makes me remember that existence is more or less one continuous existential crisis and this is why we have things like kitties and blackcurrant tea and Sherlock marathons.  Life is long and difficult and infuriating.  It’s also beautiful and fun and far, far too short.  And while I’m so often staggered by how bloody impossible it is to just keep living, I’m daily overwhelmed with gratitude for the people with whom I share this brief existence and the unrepentant joy they bring to it.

And, after all, there’s always next year.

on writing from a non-expert in the field

When it comes to being a writer, I know I’m not an expert.  I write constantly — pretty much at every waking moment in one capacity or another — but a good amount of it is only seen by a tiny group of people.  I write emails to clients, notes to friends, secret revelations I don’t understand, text messages and post-its and endless lists.  At my core, I know I am a writer more than anything else apart from a reader.  Words are my true religion and have been as long as I can remember.

The odd thing I’ve noticed, however, is that I only Write — in the sense of something whole and edited and publishable, if only on sites such as this one — when I’m secure in myself.  I have to be in my baseline in order to want to share whatever I’ve made.  Not too happy, not too sad.  Due to a lot of work over the years, I’m in my baseline most of the time.  It’s better than the negative extreme, even if it does keep the positive outliers at bay.

Over the past few months, I have lived in those extremes.  My life has been either intensely joyful or debilitatingly difficult far more often than it’s settled in the baseline.  As a result, I don’t want to share personal details.  I keep these moments to myself and those to whom I feel closest, either to protect and savour them or because I don’t fully understand them yet.  It’s too dangerous to let them out into the world.

I’ve been working on a few pieces for this blog in my head, one for quite some time and the other just over the course of the last two very difficult weeks.  I’m hoping to have them put together soon and be able to let you all in.  In the meantime, I hope all of you are safe and well and warm.

by way of explanation

For your entertainment, I now present a gif-heavy representation of how it feels to be an assistant stage manager during tech week.  Please enjoy.

harumph

Fig. 1: The resolute determination that you are about to enter tech and are missing several items of needed run crew information due to unknown factors involving the space

facepalm x 2

Fig. 2: The crushing realization that aforementioned information does not as of yet exist at cue-to-cue

 

spaced scream

Fig. 3: The discovery that the first night of tech with all needed technical elements is also the first night of previews

every time

Fig. 4: The result of opening your fridge after crawling home from first dress at 00.15 last night, knowing you have at least an hour’s worth of paperwork to correct

despondent jawn

Fig. 5: Your response upon anyone stating that these things always work out alright in the end

stitchflail

Fig. 6: Your automatic response when asked about your current condition

such artist

Fig. 7: The promise that one day you will be conscious enough to write blog posts with actual words in them again

that’s irony, alanis

I live in the U.S. of A., which, naturally, was my first mistake.  As probably everyone in America knows, there have been a lot of changes to insurance and healthcare laws as of late.  These should have been super awesome, but have turned out to kind of suck.  There are all sorts of reasons for this and debates that can occur and teeth that shall be gnashed as a direct result, but I haven’t had nearly enough whiskey to get into all of that.  This is not that story.

As a result of these changes, I recently started paying for health insurance out of pocket for the first time in my young life.  This has caused me a lot of anxiety because 1) any understanding of insurance was sorely lacking in my education because of my parents’ continued belief that I have some preternatural understanding of adulthood due to my childhood habit of being insufferably precocious; b) paying for insurance requires this thing called ‘money’ which I don’t happen to have with any regularity; and iii) I have an anxiety disorder and thus freak out about everything all the time forever.

Me.  All the time.

Me. All the time.

After a lot of tears and swearing and several bottles of wine, I was able to set up an overpriced plan with Important Insurance Company (TM), the results of which haunt my dreams and therapy sessions to this day.  I have been less than thrilled by their services thus far, which is mostly due to the fact that, when interviewed by a representative regarding my overall health, the young man on the phone didn’t seem to know what asthma was and fell out of his chair when I tried to explain that, no, I hadn’t had any recent surgeries for my PTSD because that’s not actually a thing that can happen; I’ve checked.  I then lied and told him I had no other pre-existing conditions, my thinking being that developing further medical conditions as a direct result of speaking with my medical insurance provider was kind of counterintuitive, albeit rife with comedic potential.

But I was prepared to let that all go.  Everyone has bad days and I don’t expect the dude in the call centre to be a medical expert.  I get it.  Forgiveness was at hand.

Then I received an email this morning:

*Clearly* a mistake.  Clearly.

*Clearly* a mistake. Clearly.

I’m pretty sure my insurance company is fat-shaming me.

Looks like I’ve got some feelings that need eating.  Thanks for making me even more unhealthy, insurance company.

 

{charlotte, played again}

I heard a song over the weekend that I hadn’t heard in an incredibly long time.  It got me to thinking about the first time I ever heard that song and the short piece I’d written as a result of the experience.  I’d never really liked what I’d written, but the bit at the end was lovely and exactly what I wanted to say.  It was a bit of a rough weekend for me, so I sat down and wrote it out.  This might sound familiar to some of you, but I like what I’ve got much more this time around.

*****

It’s dark when I leave the theatre, clothes heavy with sweat and dust.  Your car waiting in the parking lot, ready to take us away for late night drinks with our friends.  Another night like so many that summer.  Phone rings, my father’s voice aching at the end of the line.  Hey, kiddo, sorry, you got a sec?  And I know.  Just like that.  Like Don and Lupe and our tortoiseshell cat.  Just like every other time.  I wonder if I’ll always know.

My mother now, voice betraying her worry.  She’s trying to sound light but it never works.  I’m too calm, too rational, asking for details that I know are useless, but what am I supposed to do?  I listen and nod.  You stand patient against the driver’s side.  I close my eyes.  How long do I have until I must make these calls?  Less than a year will pass before it’s my turn:  a friend’s mother, cancer, too young, not fair.  I don’t know that yet, of course.  The last vestiges of my sloppy, shattered childhood are unravelling on the beaten pavement of the parking lot.  And I don’t even blink.  It’s all so remarkably simple.

You take my hand and lead me to the car, open the door and help me in.  The engine crackles and you start driving us nowhere.  Just turn off the music and watch me talk on the phone.  Okay.  I’m okay.  No, really, I’m okay.  There’s nothing more to say.  There’s never anything to say.

Too careful putting my phone away, close my eyes as tears trace ancient patterns down my sooty face.  Your hand finds mine and you bring it to your lips, and suddenly I can’t breathe anymore.  Eyes off the road, you touch my face.  You smile.  And you begin to sing.

John Darnielle.  Scratchy and low, a hair off-key.  It’s everything I’ll ever need.  A memory that floats up on lonely nights a hundred years later.

The tears are coming quicker now, but your fingers rub them away.  Your eyes clear and calm and full of a lifetime of promises you’ll end up breaking.  You pull the car into a space outside the liquor store and unbuckle just to hold me.  Not saying a word, not pressing for more.  Breath coming steady and keeping me close.  You wipe my eyes and I stutter.

There’s snot on your jacket.

I really don’t care.

I can’t believe she’s gone.

Looking back, I know it doesn’t end well.  Anger and tears, words we both regret.  Missed opportunities and embarrassing displays.  We might laugh about them someday.  But for now, it’s just us and your car.  McDonald’s wrappers in the backseat and my tattered bag up front, the weight of future calls and funerals on my mind.  I’m wondering who’s next.  Your arms pull me back to Earth.  In our secluded cavern you are the epitome of life:  calloused hands and cleansing heat, your smile like being born again, rescuing me from the darkness in my mind.  Newly baptized, I look into your shining eyes.

I have never loved anyone more in my entire life.

 

my joy can only be expressed with gifs

I called my da on Sunday.  There’s an unspoken rule between us that we have to spend Palm Sunday together (because of puns), but since I was in Chicago and he was back home, a phone call was an acceptable substitute.  He was hanging out at home reading with a cat on his lap, like ya do.  The world continues to be a balanced place because of this.

He started telling me about how he just got a copy of his favourite version of The Scarlet Pimpernel in the mail (starring Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, and Ian McKellen, some of his biggest actor crushes).  He was beyond stoked about it and explaining all of the reasons why this was the greatest film in the history of until-he-watches-something-else-brilliant.

For the record, this is the version of Scarlet Pimpernel that features this guy:

Wearing the Green Coat of Sex

Wearing the Green Coat of Sex

Who you may recognise as this guy:

The Sane One

The Sane One

Who along with this awesome lady:

Now 78 and still being called 'unbelievably hot' on television

Now 78 and still being called ‘unbelievably hot’ on television

Happened to give birth to this hunk of ridiculous:

A Consummate Professional

A Consummate Professional

As I began to realise this, my father started to go off on a tangent about how he was really irritated that no one bothered to mention in aforementioned film adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel that the reason why Marie Antoinette had contacts in Austria was that her mother was head of the Hapsburg Dynasty.  And then we gushed about Schönbrunn for about twenty minutes.

And, suddenly, so many things about me made sense.

My da is a fangirl.  I am a second generation fangirl.  A second generation Cumberbatch fangirl.

<3

Life is beautiful, friends.

***

Super sorry for the accidental blog hiatus.  It was due to some really awesome stuff happening and encouraged by some less-than-awesome stuff happening, but I hope to be back in action soon.  Hopefully in a less interweb-picture-heavy format.  I promise nothing.