Friday, December 9, 2016

Factory Love Letter

In a play about strippers, I was cast as a waitress. And a lawyer. I don’t like roles I’ll age out of. I played a 65 year old woman when I was in high school. So I never feel like I’m aging. I’m just growing into the roles I was already playing.

On the first day of rehearsal for the aforementioned stripper play - called Top Shelf Gash in case you wondered if we had ANY class at all and my mother loved it by the way - I was excited and a little nervous. I didn’t know anyone in the cast except for one person, and these people were a tight knit group. I was brand new. So I made sure to get there early, and I waited. And waited.

I was at the wrong space, because this was an itinerant company and we rented 15 different spaces to rehearse in and I apparently couldn’t read a goddamned calendar COOL, I’ll just take a cab to the right space then.

Everyone was very nice, and we read this ridiculous play out loud and I had no idea what was going on and I didn’t care. It was funny. It was weird. The jokes were a combination of crude and elaborate, obvious and beat-you-to-death obvious, and subtle. There were a lot of references. A lot. I didn’t think people made plays like this.

They didn’t know me at all, but they threw an extra role at me because they wanted someone to say the name of the restaurant where the scene took place. It was called Vagitaria. Because of course it was. Shameless Ball, Shameless Company.

The director, Nick Digilio, just told me to come up with a few specials. Me? Just...rattle something off?

They didn’t know I was improv trained. They didn’t know this is what I do. They just assumed I would catch the ball if they threw it, because why else would I be there? Catch the fucking ball, let’s all move on. So I did.

My specials were mostly puns involving vegan food, and it ended with this one: “And lamb. You can’t eat him, we’re just going to bring him out and you pet him and tell him how special he is.”

It worked.

I was in. Also, I was in an onstage pun war with our Artistic Director, Scott OKen. I do not recommend that. Ever. It’s brutal. And I loved it.

I was addicted then. I would become a company member two years later, after acting as consigliere while in a band with all of the company’s leadership.

I was in this shit now, son. How deep? Oh, man.

This Shameless Ensemble. This group of crazy people. I have held these people while they wept; I have shared holidays with them, invited them to my wedding and my home. I have cried with them. I have helped them get home safely, and held their hair when they’ve thrown up. They have helped ME get home safely and been blissfully unaware when I’ve thrown up because I am a GODDAMNED PROFESSIONAL.

I have seen audience members literally piss themselves. I’ve also seen them be forever changed by something they saw that no other theater would put on stage, for better or for worse.

I have fought with these company members and made up and fought again. I have been half naked on stage for them. I have loved and lost and loved again with them around to hold me up. I learned to cartwheel and rollerskate for them, to fight better, to write better, to be the straight woman, to step up, to SIT DOWN, to respond faster and smarter, to lay it on the line like Triumph. To be present, to be right here right now, Jesus Jones. To say ULTIMATE a certain way. Ultimate. To enjoy lawsuits. To know what a fart room is, what shit bird is, what a reach around means IN A SHOW, what a DON’T DOOR is, and when and where to make a list moment happen. I have learned to stop, to collaborate and to listen. To constantly ask, “OH IS THAT RIGHT.”

To scream chants in bars on command.
 (leads room in chant)
(Room responds perfectly)

You see that? That is commitment. And a liiiiittle bit of a cult. IT’S OKAY we are a really nice cult and you're all invited.

These are the teachings of this shameless family. As my career grows, I can look back over ten years of being a company member and know that I got most of it from them. I am now aging gracefully into the roles I’ve had. Just last month, I shot a short film about strippers. I played a waitress. I think I did a pretty good goddamned job.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Big Feelings

Holy shit.

My husband, Scott, graduates with his Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago this weekend. We're attending the hooding ceremony tonight with his dad and stepmom and Gilda, and the reception post-graduation tomorrow. We're missing the graduation ceremony proper because Gilda has "The Big Show" at school, and watching 4 year olds Salsa is more entertaining than watching adults walk slowly. However...

This has been over three years in the making. Scott lost his job in advertising, an area in which he never intended to stay. But the money and the stability and acting blah blah blah like so many of us, and 10 years later he was still doing it. Then it was gone. He got offers to go back to old firms, and I begged him not to return to something that made him miserable. So he became a stay at home dad with Gilda for the first 18 months of her life. During that time, he decided what he wanted to do with his life in his new roles as a father and as a sober man. In case that wasn't enough, he applied to graduate schools to begin the journey to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He wanted to help people. He still does.

He went part time to make OUR lives easier, and that meant this journey would be three years instead of two.

During that time, his internships were hard. I mean, are-you-kidding-me hard. First up, The Night Ministry. He stood outside during the Polar Vortex to help people in need. He also organized a sock drive because, goddammit, it's cold outside. This is a van set up outdoors to assist people without anywhere else to turn, and it's often LGBTQ youth. They provide health care, food, and human connection in the model of harm reduction. It's vital, it's compassionate, and it's nothing like any other program.

No, YOU'RE cold.
Then he began working at The Night Ministry's emergency youth shelter, The Crib. He was interning at the van, and working part time at the shelter. Oh, and getting all A's in school. He wouldn't talk about the work much, but he also wasn't withdrawn. Just...tired. Cause...yeah. One day, when he had a small hole in his shirt, I jokingly asked him if he was breaking up fights. "Not today," he answered in all seriousness.

I make this joke a lot, but it's a good summary of where our lives were headed by this point. We were going in two very different directions, but also becoming more of who we really are as people (and therefore coming closer together at the same time). Here's that summary.

Scott: A girl at the shelter went to jail for strangling another girl to death over a pair of sneakers.

Me: I auditioned to be a singing rat today. I don't think I got it.

All the while, he was maintaining his sobriety and helping raise the happiest little girl on the planet.


He then got the internship at Gateway, where he is currently a full time counselor. He was leading therapy sessions as an intern, and getting a good hard look at what the future would bring in his career. He was exhausted, but so happy. 

Did I mention he was still getting all A's?

During this time, we have lost dear friends. Dear friends have lost their sweet baby boy. His family went through several emotional upheavals and illnesses. He traveled out to California to be with his mother after heart surgery. And, in November of last year, we lost her. It's not like the universe gives you a goddamned break while you're busy. That's not how life works.

He took some time off after that, about a couple of weeks. He then tried to dive back in with a quiz. Like you do. 

He continued to excel at his job and in school.

I also did two summer shows back to back and we moved. Somehow, we're still married.

I know. I'm rambling and I'm making my husband sound like an unearthly being. He's very human, I promise. We bicker and we laugh and we had our kid in our bed for so long, we wondered if we were ever going to be alone together again. Our house gets messy as hell, we're poor as fuck, and we've both put on grad school weight. Whatever.

He finished with his excellent grades, his proud family, his sobriety, and our marriage in tact.

As of tomorrow, he has a Masters in Social Work, and he is a graduate of the SSA program. I stand in awe of this man. I have never been so proud of anyone as I am of him (except MAYbe when Gilda started walking or using the potty...I'm not a monster), and I have never felt so fortunate to be on a journey with someone and watch them truly become who they were meant to be.

It's never too late, and it isn't out of reach. Whatever it is, go. Go after it.

Happy Graduation, my love.

This guy.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Write Club - Skin v. Bone (BONE)


I don’t really have much else on that, I just really like the word and it’s my topic with an R. Good night.

Ahhhfuckno. Belknap isn’t winning by boner default. Not this time, pal.

Look, I’ve done my research. There’s that song about bones on Schoolhouse Rock that I’ve heard at least 15 times in the last two days because I have a toddler sooo...I pretty much have this in the bag. (ahem) I know that, without bones, you’re just a blob. Protecting organs...their main job. And other handy facts that rhyme.

The fact is, what we’re talking about is structure. I’m a 40 year old with undiagnosed ADD. Structure isn’t my strong suit. I have one, I suppose, we all do, but it’s a mess. Oh you're an artist so it's looser, no. It's a mess.

I have two sisters and none of us ever broke any bones growing up. This was a point of pride for my mom, Like she smoked steel into us in utero, instead of Winston’s tar... like hickory smoked into bacon but way...way more disgusting. She bragged, I ate Tums every day," she said, "Like they were candy. We didn’t know they had calcium!"

While we were in the nest, that protection seemed legit. She made us, we weren’t breaking anything. Once we were out, it was up for grabs.

In college, I gave myself a hairline fracture to my own nose while choreographing a modern dance final, and that gave me a really good idea of just how much I was gonna get in my own way forever.

My oldest sister had the bones in her face broken by a concrete bench. There was no protecting her on that one, especially since she met the concrete bench courtesy of a cop. You probably saw it online. The whole world did. I’ve somehow managed to only watch it twice. That was enough.

Years after my mom died, I saw the resemblance more than ever between her and my oldest sister. The high cheekbones especially. The plastic surgery to fix her orbital bones that would prevent her eyeball from falling didn’t quite restore the one cheekbone perfectly, but it’s close.

The pictures I took of her after she was released, with blood on her shirt, shaking uncontrollably, come up every time we write each other because technology likes to link pictures and words even when you don’t want to. The picture’s connected to the memory.

In the protection of our calcium-laden home, we drank whole milk from the carton to wash down the Apple Jacks and Lucky Charms and twinkies that were taking the place of emotional support. That’s the best kind of food. The one that replaces affection. It’s fucking delicious.

I had some questions, though, about this “no bones broken” thing. Much like there were questions about that whole “you weren’t born Jewish” and “you weren’t actually a ballerina” and “why is there a different last name on my birth certificate” thing. So many questions. But back to the bones. I had one to pick.

I had a twisted leg at birth. Yes twisted. Not a medical term, I’m sure, but it’s the only adjective I got. There was a cast involved which says "break" to me, but these facts were usually discarded in favor of the better joke. "You were really hairy, so we called you monkey baby."

Instead of structure in our house, we got speed. As a family, our brains are fast but border on unstable, because our mutterings and need to arrive at the perfect punchline make us skip over the tenets of normal discourse so we wind up being our own best audience - kinda like the guy screaming "Happy Friday" in his own piss. Eventually, that’s where we’re going. When your family invents their past and denies the present, but can also make the best joke about it, you’re probably gonna be screaming something in the street covered in something at some point in your life.

Let’s just say I can feel it in my bones.

But I'm terrible with looking ahead. I love lists, but will not have a five year plan, It seems pompous and illogical to me. Who the fuck am I to lay out a plan? It's not that I believe in God's will, it's just that by 12 I learned to not ask and just go. My dad went to a Ramada Inn and ended his life. Next thing I know, I'm staying at friend's houses, grounded for a summer for shoplifting some pants from a Bergner's, and I live in a new town and mom had a boyfriend named Mel. Just...just fucking go with it.

So I did. I rolled with punches and made lists and never really looked at where I was going. I never planned on being married with kids because I never planned any kind of life for  myself beyond that list. I got lucky. My husband and kid are spectacular. People let me come and perform and write stuff and say it out loud when I secretly don't believe I'm worthy of it. I rolled with it and hopes for the best. But now I can't roll. I can barely fucking turn. Age has pulled a folgers trick on me, replacing my bones with nonsense to see if I noticed. I have wads of arthritis where my bones should be. I don't have joints. I have fucking traitors.

Not to brag, but I have advanced arthritis. I've always been a quick study. "You're too young for this," my doctor says.

My dentist even casually told me that the noise in my jaw was arthritis. In my jaw.

Your teeth are also considered bones. I willingly filed my front six down to niblets and covered them with crowns because they were cheaper and faster than braces. My mom had a plate for hers. That’s because a man kicked them in when she was 16. She had a child with him. Later, she gave each daughter a different explanation as to why she had a plate and always joked that she wanted a son. She had one with the man who abused her so much that she ran away, leaving the child with his family. She thought it was the only way for either of them to survive. I never met him, and my mother wouldn’t discuss it. Even when she knew my sister finally told me everything. She didn’t even recognize the skeletons in her closet as anything but clothes by this point.

We keep other people’s secrets until we no longer feel it’s our right.

My sister, long before she met the police and the bench, set the family skeletons loose because she needed room for winter coats. Or maybe her own secrets.

I’m hopeful that, while we watch Schoolhouse Rock for the eleventeenth time (I Got Six is a jam and if you didn’t know, now you know), I only have dresses and shoes to pass on to my daughter. I also hope I can keep up with her and that she grows up so strong. Because kneeling down toward her is some bullshit.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Clapping Wildly and Smiling Too Big

I've already yammered about my tendency to be a straight up bully to myself. We all do it, but I can't do anything about other people - only me. When entering a journey of any sort that involves self work ("I will be stronger"/"I will be kinder"/"I will not eat all of my child's leftovers"/"I will not watch Better Call Saul without my husband," etc), the hardest part for me is doing it with self love. Acknowledging that work lies ahead is not hard. Hell, I'm convinced I have work to do even when I'm already working on something sleep. Acknowledging that I am still a good person despite work that has to be done? Ahhhhfuckstick. That's harder. Even when it doesn't have to be, I make it harder.

Mmm. What a cozy waste of productivity. What do people call this thing? 

I begin by frantically listing the things I have to do, and make them sound super-daunting so I won't want to do them. "I have to call the unemployment office, All Kids, and the Health Marketplace to straighten some things out. I'm gonna be on hold for my entire life."

REASON: I booked a spot on a national television show and I got paid, so I had to file a new claim, my husband is now employed full time, and we are covered under his insurance as of April 1. These are GOOD PROBLEMS.

REASON TO ME: I am not going to get another gig and it's all catch-as-catch-can and I'm failing my family, good thing my husband is here or we'd be living under a bridge.

See? Asshole.

I also completed these calls and it took MAYBE 15 damn minutes.

When tackling something more common like weight loss and strength training, I can be even more brutal. Recently, I tried something as I struggled in a class. My muscles were tired and unaccustomed to moving this way (it's been a minute). My knee is swollen so holding my balance was a blooper reel of futility. I wanted to give up. I wanted to tell myself it was too late and I should probably accept defeat.

Then, I did it. I talked to my body like it was my daughter.

Simple concept, really. Except that most times it feels like I'm telling my daughter "no" or "don't touch that do not touch that it's trash what did I just say do not do not do no -- ugh." However, there's encouragement aplenty in our house. This week, I cheered her on as she made a basket with a wrapper she was growing away, because she kept throwing it until she got it. I also thanked her continuously for her impeccable behavior when we're out and about, her desire to clean up, her endless cuddles and kindness, and her sense of humor. Sure, a lot of those jokes currently involve poop, but dammit...still funny.

I started applying this encouragement to crunches and leg lifts.

"10 more? Pfffft. You can do that! You're doing it now! Yes yes yes. You've got this! Look at you! You're doin it! Yaaaay! Oh my God, you're almost done I can't believe it!"

It's important to note that thjs wasn't out loud.

It's also important to note that it worked.

It worked a fuckton better than, say, "Maybe if you did this more it wouldn't be so hard" or, "Your fat rolls are rubbing together." I mean, hitting myself in the face would work better than that shit, but still. This was GOOD. This was PROGRESS.

It's a long journey to be kind to yourself. I look at body positive projects like this one and the FIRST thing I do is notice the people with conventionally "acceptable" body types. I then judge. "Why are they worried? They're fine." Then my rational brain takes over; I look at their story and their struggle and I empathize. I am grateful they told that story.

I'm telling mine in bits and pieces, and this piece concentrates on the simple joy of mentally clapping and smiling and saying, "YAAY!" to yourself when you need it most. It works. I'm going to try it more often.

Even if it is out loud.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Put It Down and Step Away Slowly.

I'm on my phone a lot. We all are, but it's really starting to hit me just how much I'm holding the damn thing. I'm no longer at a computer for 8+ hours a day, so my work is in my hand until I sit down to write a full piece. There are emails to answer and texts to respond to and calendars to update with the deadlines created from those texts and emails, plus Facebook messages for those who don't text or email, then back to the calendar. I talk to Sevigny pretty much all day every day via Google Hangout, and that's not going anywhere so long as we both have fingers and brains. Then there's this clock gobbler (h/t Stephen Colbert) of a thing, Social Media. My thumb goes to that F button for the app when I'm trying to check the weather or my calendar. It's a muscle memory reflex of an addiction. I find myself reading while telling myself to turn it off and I answer, "in just a minute." WHY? What on earth is so pressing that I can't go get my own shit done? "Hang on, there's a think piece about that millennial who got fired from Yelp from a different millennial and I should read that real quick cause everyone said 'read this' when they posted it." We all know that looking at social media for long stretches isn't the best idea for people with depression, particularly if you already tend to compare yourself to others negatively. Which...hi. Have we met? If so, I probably decided you're better than me at some point.

Me, allowing my life to slip by and not sleeping/eating/peeing but OMG NEW LIKE OPTIONS!
Scott works pretty much nonstop, so he also has phone in hand at home, but is usually reading about basketball or playing video games. He's allowed. You go and help people trying to come down off of heroin get the help they need, and you too can play all the video games you want when you get home. Unless, of course, you're supposed to be watching a show with me, in which case I will harass you mercilessly until you put the phone down and watch tv with me.

You're looking at the wrong screen. Look at the one I'm looking at. Stare into this bigger screen with meeeeeee. (Why. Why am I even married? I'm the worst.)

We know that our behaviors, good or bad, are absorbed by our children. They are tiny sponges - which also explains why they get every illness ever to ride the wind and past their face for three seconds - and they hear even the things you mumble. They mimic your actions and make them their own; they create entire worlds out of something you said offhandedly once. Like, maybe, you said they should shut the door so wild animals don't get inside joke...'cause the weather was warm and one might leave the door open but the constant slamming was too much for you and it wasn't your house so you just SAID that and then that kid wanted all of the doors closed in a constant fear of being ambushed by WILD ANIMALS because of your stupid mouth. Maybe. As a purely fictional example.

I was charging my lifeline with a Mophie yesterday. It's just a black box that's a portable charger because...well...if I charged my phone in the wall it would be TOO FAR AWAY FROM ME. Oh, God. I just typed that and thought about my whole life and got a little sad. Ok. I'm shaking that off now. So I was charging and looking at my blue-light friend so I could avoid watching BusyTown Mysteries again (EVERYONE IN THE HOUSE IS LOOKING AT SCREENS WHAT IS DRAWING AND PRETEND I FORGOT). My daughter spies the charger and wants to see it. I quickly realize it looks like the NoPhone being Kickstarted a while back. Remember that early intervention tool? How'd that work out for us?
This one enables the hell out of me.
This one does nothing.

Bird immediately decided the charger was her phone. This was cute at first, as she held it to her ear and talked to someone, a friend she said was in the "hostibal" because...dammit. I can't remember why, but it was adorable. Then she wanted to take the charger to bed. Just like mama and daddy do. I told her we have our phones in the bedroom because we have alarms on them, but that didn't work. I asked her to pick out her stories, and I went to gather all the usual Going to Sleep Barriers: milk, water, tissues, blanket, stuffed animal, socks, anxieties about our future, etc.

When I came back into the room, she was sitting up in bed, stroking the surface of the charger with her index finger, as though scrolling down a screen. But there was no screen. She was perfectly content to stare at a black, plain surface, pretending to scroll. She told me that she was doing the same movement that I do.

Scott came into the room, and she decided to share her findings.

"Look at this interesting cute cat video!" she said with a smile, holding the charger out for us to see.

"Look at this cute boy and girl," she smiled, as though they were just adorable.

Scott and I just stared at one another in horror. "I'm sorry if Daddy is on his phone too much and not paying attention to you. I'm going to stop doing that now," he said. She looked up at him and smiled and told him more about her day with me at the library. I also vowed to put the damn thing down more.

Sure, I started this blog on my phone. I have checked it since then. But I'm now staring at a computer screen while Bird is at school, blissfully unaware.

She's probably pretending everything in the playroom is a phone, though. I think we're doomed. I might post that on Facebook, along with a picture of my kid and my dinner.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Kinder, Gentler Face Punch

In a time of freedom and success, I sure do seem to be laser focused on why I'm not kind to myself. But hey. This is a blog and it's getting so loud in my head I can't think anymore. I literally got up out of bed to write this. Take that, sleep and stuff.

We all have physical imperfections. We all have things we do not love about our appearance and have either grown to accept those things, have embraced those things, or have chosen to loudly complain about those things when ordering a pastry/trying on clothes/purchasing skin care products/looking in a mirror/watching one's self on video/having a conversation about something unrelated ("Well, I wouldn't say that a vote for Bernie is a vote for Trump, it's not like an immediate thing like eyes drawn to my love handles. What are we talking about?") in the hopes that the complaining will somehow lead to the aforementioned acceptance/embracing or magically fixing it.

Sure. We all have that. We also love seeing other people have that, because it feels validating and good. Stars are just like us and all.

Body positivity is not only important, it's fucking vital. And I encourage it in the exact same spirit I encouraged my husband to pursue a different path after leaving advertising: that's totally cool for you, but not for me. No, no, YOU have to do that. In this life, what else have you but your happiness and sanity and love? Do it! Me? No, fuck that. Not me, this is about you. YOU do those great things. You deserve them.

Everyone should love themselves and all they come with, I preach, for this life is cruelly short, and we cannot waste it on wanting to be something we aren't, unless we are putting in the actual work that comes with real change. There is nothing to gain by demonizing one's own appearance. I know these things, and I practice them once in a great while for myself. But most often, I am running a checklist of all the things that are currently wrong with how I look, and wrong with what I'm doing. Like...all day and night.

Goddammit, I have a daughter. The thought of her doing this to herself breaks my heart into a thousand fucking pieces.

I remember saying something disparaging about my appearance in front of my mother late in her life. "What are you talking about?" she growled in her smoky Brooklyn voice, "You're gorgeous!" She was appalled. I thought she was biased. I get it now. She was both.

I try to see myself as my daughter sees me. Sometimes that works. And then I see a video or photo of myself from even a year or two ago, and I wonder how I am bigger than that now, when both versions of me were post-kid. Then I snap back to now, realize I am pushing my body around in the mirror like it's hair and all I have to do is spray it and oh my God what if she saw me do that. Shit, did she see me do that?

She must have seen me do that at some point. How could she miss it?

I am terrified of all the challenges this girl will face, and I am doing my damnedest to raise her to be strong against them, even as she adores princesses and their dresses. Dresses are nice, so I won't argue with that. But between Photoshop and models and the industry I am in and a GODDAMNED VICTORIA'S SECRET CATALOG IN MY MAILBOX EVERY DAY SINCE I BOUGHT A BRA STOP SENDING ME PORN, VS, I HAVE A PHONE FOR THAT...she'll be bombarded with images and ideas about how she should look. I am hopeful that the battle being waged on that bullshit will have made some progress soon...or that she can take up arms to continue the fight in earnest. I am also hopeful I haven't lost myself yet. That I haven't decided entirely that I am not up to snuff. But, man, I am not making this easy on myself.

I read a great list of body positive books to read with your daughter, and I was delighted. I was all, "hell yeah, this is powerful. I can't wait until she's old enough to read these," and then...quietly, but so so consistently...I literally judged these books by their covers. "If being different is so awesome and celebratory, why is there a really pretty model on the cover of this book?" My thoughts devolved from there, wondering if I should just gain more weight so I could be a "type" instead of this mushy, oddly shaped and too-big version of my former self - someone who just doesn't get how she was supposed to look. Like no one told me and I just ate food and now what the hell is this.

Don't get me wrong, when I was thirty pounds lighter than I am now, I thought I was enormous and I'd cry about it. This isn't about the weight. Sure, I'd love for some of that to go away so I can wear more clothes in my own closet because poor. But see, I KNOW WHAT TO DO TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN. It isn't about that. It never was.

It's about never, ever, fully embracing my entire self the way I want others to do for their entire selves.

Whether it's my career (you know this tune: I'm a fraud and what I'm doing is ridiculous because I will never be as good as doo dah, doo dah...I'm a failure and delusional why do I bother, oh the doo dah day), my self worth (how DO I have all of these friends and this selfless and courageous husband when I am the literal worst and most selfish person ever), or my appearance ("You should love yourself as you are. You're fucking gorgeous. Me? No. You? Always").

This isn't a plea for compliments or validation. It won't do a damn bit of good anyway because, if I don't believe it myself, that sweet sentiment is going to bounce off of me and crash to the floor. Continually.

I have small victories where I break the cycle: I give myself an approving glance in a store window reflection. I take a good selfie (cue club jamz). I just feel good enough that I don't care. My daughter looks at me adoringly when I show her "ballet moves." My daughter looks at me adoringly for any reason and laughs at my jokes. Anyone laughs at my jokes. But it's really only a matter of time before I slip the "I could lose a few pounds, amirite" comment or "it's cool, I'll just be chinless and over here being super weird" comment into an otherwise pleasant conversation.

I don't want my daughter to hear or see it, but it permeates everything I do. Therefore, it can no longer be about hiding it. It has to be about actually believing what I want her to believe: that we, as we are, are beautiful. That what we are doing is good enough as long as we're trying our best. Not in a motivational meme or Instagram post kind of way. Really and honestly believing it down to my rapidly deteriorating bones. Goddammit, I did it again.

This journey isn't easy, but it has to be done. For me, for her, for everyone I love. Because who wants to be the woman who hates herself underneath the good talk? No one. And I've been her long enough.   I deserve better. My daughter deserves better. My husband deserves better. And one more time for the back row: I deserve better.

There, Brain. I've emptied a bit. Now please leave me be and let's go the hell to sleep.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Navel Gazing and Other Ways We're Terrible

We are all horrible to ourselves. I mean. Just awful.

We sat at Italian Village, the place where I had never been and felt ashamed as a Chicagoan. Didn't matter -- it was open, this seemed right. Christ, the band was playing Girl From Ipanema when we walked in. It could not have been more perfect if we wanted it to.

Warm bread, a little wine, some cheese and some meat. All is well. Wait...there was no cheese on that antipasto platter. I call foul.

One went home before the food and drinks, she has three kids and her mom was watching them. Busy day tomorrow, helping and healing more people. But she felt bad. Like she was disappointing us after a day of healing the masses and their aches, fears, and recurring pains.

The three remaining, headed to Italian Old School Chicago Glory because Fuck It, It's Open have seven kids...among them. Can you do that? Can you pool kids like tips at the end of the night? She has four, the one who still dances and teaches kids. The one who, after the show was over, had an alum (whom none of us remembered) say, "You're HER? I had a huge crush on you." Four kids, that one, and probably the best sense of humor about it of anyone I've ever met. Me, I have one. The indecisive woman who amplifies her old self around these lovely women, plays the role as Negative but Not Too because she can't seem to figure out where to put her hands and she isn't wearing pockets -- metaphorically speaking. Just the one child. Quit while you're ahead or be too frightened to admit that you Want and Don't Want More and Don't At All At All. Then there's A. She has no kids, because she's doing national tours like the show we just saw her slay. I have the nerve, the unmitigated gall my mother would say, to ask her questions about the production and how it compares to the tour she did 18 years ago and who the everloving fuck am I to ask any of these questions? No. One. But someone. But not in this context. It's embarrassing. The one with two kids speaks. She should have three, but she lost the baby right before Christmas. She cries, catching A up to the fact. She apologizes profusely for crying. We only see A once every couple of years and she doesn't want to see this, she reasons.

She is having a real and unguarded emotional reaction. To losing a child. It's a pretty good goddamned reason. We aren't interviewing her for a job. We're catching up on things and calling ourselves old friends. Shouldn't that be the time?

Even as I write this, I wonder if I'm something great in the back of my mind and maybe someone will read it and discover that, yes, indeed I am. Oh, her ramblings are superb and make Eggers or David Foster Wallace or other famous ramblers look like idiots, they'll say because they've actually read David Foster Wallace (I haven't) and are therefore more competent and smart and able to judge these things. They will. Not me, they will do it. Someone else will validate me and I won't accept it but it because, should it ever come, this mystery validation from a theoretical We, I will instantly disavow Their credibility. But Someone Else with More Qualifications will certainly be around soon to let me know the thing I could not tell myself.

I do not give me permission, and yet I give myself complete permission.

She didn't give herself permission to cry and grieve because surely the time has passed and this is Not What We Are Here For.

But then what else the hell are we here for? To connect beyond the highlight reel, even if we Weren't Always Close we're in a situation now that assumes it was so. Move forward and act accordingly. Cry. Tell me about it. Celebrate one another. It's so much easier with my Givens. The People I Surround Myself With Regularly. I know it. This isn't consistent so I'm trying to figure it out as I'm doing it. What do I walk away with? The knowledge that we do not give ourselves permission and we leave, walking in the cold to our cars, telling each other that no, we were the worst. At Least You Didn't...etc. We exhibit no kindness for our own actions, and infinite acceptance of anyone else's.

I say often we should make space for kindness to ourselves, and in small ways, sometimes we do. But damn, is it easy to just cut yourself deep. It's too easy. And it wastes precious time.